Whittle: Hershel Lake built strong newspapers

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Hershel Lake, one of journalism's prominently-known innovative leaders, died Nov. 29, 2014 at a hospital in Nashville following a lengthy illness.

As former president of the Tennessee Press Association, Publisher Lake was known statewide as a force of strong, ethical community-building newspapering.

At age 74, he had retired as publisher of the Pulaski Citizen newspaper. Earlier in his career, Mr. Lake had served at the helm of the Cookeville Herald-Citizen and the Carthage Courier, a newspaper with a colorful history as confirmed with its motto printed on the right hand ear of the front page: "The Only Paper That Gives A Whoop About Smith County."

Cannon Courier Publisher Ron Fryar, also a former president of the Tennessee Press Association, assessed Mr. Lake's impact on Tennessee journalism:

"There is no doubt Hershel Lake's presence for decades had a defining role, not only in Tennessee Newspapers but the newspaper industry as a whole. His zest for life as well as his love of family, friends and community defined Hershel's persona. I learned a great deal from Hershel throughout my near 40 year newspaper career and I will miss my friend's laugh and wisdom greatly. Community journalism lost one of its giants with Hershel's passing."

Mr. Lake helped train multiple journalists who went on to work throughout Tennessee's newspaper industry, including Murfreesboro's "Tennessee Football Guru" Murphy Fair and myself, Courier/ Murfreesboro Post columnist Dan Whittle.

"The newspaper industry lost an icon this past weekend with the passing of Hershel Lake," Fair confirmed. "Hershel bought the Carthage Courier back in 1976 and asked me to come to Smith County to be his editor. I owe so much of where I am today because of the confidence he showed in me 38 years ago. Hershel was a great friend, a mentor and advisor to me. I will miss his laugh and his presence tremendously. Thank you, Hershel. God bless."

I (Dan Whittle) smiled when asked about "working for Hershel Lake."

"Hershel Lake helped mentor many Tennessee newspaper professionals.

"While working in his employ, we only had one major disagreement, when Hershel assigned me to do a story on large tree snakes in a rural, remote Upper Cumberland community. I still don't do snake stories.

"What I admired most about Hershel, was his commitment to use his newspaper to help build his community. To me, that's why newspapers exist, not only to inform, but to build when possible. Hershel was a builder. As one of the founders of the new Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame at MTSU's Mass Communications College, I'll submit Hershel Lake's name for posthumous consideration this next induction cycle."

Mr. Lake proudly served his country as a soldier in the Alabama National Guard before beginning his newspaper career. Being a graduate of the University of Alabama, explained his lifelong fandom to the "Roll Tide" football team.
The family asked that donation memorials be made to the Giles County Library in Pulaski where he is survived by his wife of 50 years, Geraldine "Gerri" Vaughn Lake, son Steven Charles (Kathy) Lake, and son David Christopher (Sloan) Lake, plus grandchildren Anslee, C.J., Addie and Madeline, brothers Arthur Lake and Mike Lake, and sister Elaine, all of Alabama.

His funeral was held Dec. 1 at the First Baptist Church in Pulaski, with the Bennett-May-Giles County Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

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