Over the past month, I have had a few opportunities to reflect. One of the things foremost in my mind has been legacy. One of the ways Webster’s Dictionary defines legacy is, “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”

The legacies I have thought of most recently are the two men I have had the pleasure of inheriting desks from, Robert Williams and Max Gardner. The two men combined had over 100 years of experience in the newspaper industry and both men are members of the Georgia Press Golden Club for having served 50 or more years in the industry. 

I begin with my first mentor in the newspaper industry, my grandfather, Max. He was a wonderful man who taught me the value of a local newspaper and the important role it plays in the continuous growth and improvement of a community. He taught me about the importance of reporting the facts, fair and unbiased, and keeping opinions in the correct place, the editorial page.

Max started as a printer’s devil at The Baxley News-Banner in 1956. A printer’s devil, he explained to me, did whatever became handy. He worked his way up to editor before he and my grandmother, Helen, purchased the paper in 1981. He continued to write columns, editorials and draw cartoons for the paper until he retired in 2007, completing over  51 years of service. He passed away in March 2014.

I have also thought recently of the legacy of the longtime editor and publisher of The Blackshear Times, Robert Williams. I have read several of his columns, articles and other pieces that have appeared throughout his many years of work and service to Pierce County. Robert began as editor in 1971 and retired in July 2019. 

Robert and his wife, Cheryl, have been extremely gracious of their time to answer questions I have had and I am very grateful. I hope to continue to draw from his many years of experience and knowledge. 

Two other men I have had the pleasure of learning under are my father, Freddy, and his brother, my Uncle, Jamie. Freddy was the editor of The Alma Times beginning at 18 before being called into the ministry when I was a child. I have learned many valuable and instrumental lessons from my father throughout my life, but one specific lesson I learned during his time as editor was to work hard, be proud of your work and you need to do what the Lord has called you to do. 

I also have had the honor of working with my Uncle Jamie for the past 18 years when I started full-time at The Baxley News-Banner in 2001, while still in high school. I have learned many important lessons concerning the newspaper industry. Including how to continuously work towards improving and seek out new ways to innovate. I also want to show appreciation for the many opportunities he has given me to improve and the opportunities I have today. 

The final man I have thought about concerning legacy recently is my late father-in-law, James Edward (JE) Roberson. JE was not in the newspaper industry. He was a farmer by trade and also drove a school bus in Appling County for several years. He taught me the value of hard work but also enjoying what you are doing and having fun while you do it. 

It would be impossible to write all the lessons I have learned from these men about the newspaper industry, how to be a man, how to be a good friend or how to be a good father. One thing I do want to mention that I have learned from every single one, and most importantly, is how to be a good Christian man.

I pray I am able to use what I have learned and continue to learn from them as I create my own legacy. 

•Matt Gardner is the Publisher of The Blackshear Times. Email him at mgardner@theblacksheartimes.com.