Dennis Richardson, 1951-2021

Sep 1, 2021

Dennis Richardson, owner of Magic Valley Publishing Co. and beloved husband, father and grandfather, passed away suddenly and peacefully at his Camden, Tennessee, home on July 26, 2021.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 23, 1951, he was the youngest of seven children. His father was a sharecropper who provided well for his family but passed away when Dennis was 2 years old. After graduating from Joelton High School, Dennis attended the University of Tennessee at Martin, where he studied engineering. He transferred to UT Knoxville, Tennessee, to study journalism, but returned to finish at UT Martin, where he graduated and met his wife, Lisa Hatley.

He began his newspaper career at the Paris Post Intelligencer (PI) as sports editor. After a couple of years at the PI and a short time at the Carroll County News, he was hired as editor of the Weakley County Press in Martin, Tennessee, by Randal Benderman, who became his lifelong mentor in newspaper publishing. Dennis left the Weakley County Press and moved to Clarksville to work as a copy editor at the state’s oldest continuously publishing newspaper, the Leaf-Chronicle.

Dennis and Lisa became newspaper publishers in 1983 when they purchased the Carroll County News in Huntingdon, Tennessee. Soon after, they incorporated the business as Magic Valley Publishing Inc. (MVP).

Later in 1992, MVP purchased the Carroll Leader, merging it with the Carroll County News to create the Carroll County News-Leader. In 1994, Dennis added the Camden Chronicle to MVP.

More acquisitions followed and included: the Print Shop in Waverly, Tennessee; the Fulton (Kentucky) Leader; the Hickman County (Kentucky) Gazette; the Hickman (Kentucky) Courier; the Carlisle (Kentucky) Weekly; the Ballard (Kentucky) Weekly; the Dekalb Co. News; the Crockett County Times; the Lake County Banner in Tiptonville, Tennessee; the Waverly (Tennessee) News-Democrat; the Buffalo River Review in Linden, Tennessee; the Wayne County News in Waynesboro, Tennessee; the Chester County Independent in Henderson, Tennessee; The Leader in Covington, Tennessee; the Collierville (Tennessee) Herald; the Collierville Independent; the Bartlett (Tennessee) Express; the Shelby Sun-Times in Bartlett; the Germantown (Tennessee) News; the Millington Star in Bartlett; the Shopper News in Gibson, Tennessee; and the Dresden (Tennessee) Enterprise.

The company also started a regional travel magazine, Discover West Tennessee, in December 2020. Dennis was also the owner of two radio stations, WRJB 95.9 FM and WFWL 1220 AM.

During 38 years as an employer with hundreds of employees over that time, no case comes to the memory of his family where he denied an employee a vacation request or a pay advance when an employee facing financial hardships requested it. Many who left the company returned soon after, and several employees have worked for MVP for more than 15 years.

He was a longtime member and deacon at the Camden Church of Christ and a Rotarian, first as a charter member of Rotary Club of Huntingdon and then the Rotary Club of Camden. He served on directorship boards for the Tennessee Press Association, National Newspaper Association, Carey Counseling Center and various other organizations throughout his life.

“For those of us on the NNA/NNAF boards with Dennis, his passing came as a great shock and immediate loss," NNA Foundation Matt Adelman, publisher of the Douglas (Wyoming) Budget, said.  "Dennis was an inspiration in many special ways on both boards, first on NNA for many years before agreeing to move to the NNAF Board last year to help smooth the transition with his constant stability. Not only did he offer insights into the industry and business; he reminded us constantly of our real mission: people. His faithful dedication to family, his community and his state often resulted in quietly offering reminders that what we do in this industry is for them, and decisions we were contemplating should be keeping them in the forefront. Soft-spoken, he chose his words carefully and wisely; they made much bigger impacts on those around him than I think he realized and kept many of us grounded in our decisions. We will truly miss his guidance and friendship.”

Prior to joining the NNA board in 2018, Dennis said, “I believe strongly in community journalism. Each newspaper, although small, is autonomous.”

Dennis also spent several years working as a newspaper broker, first for W.B. Grimes and Co. of New York, then on his own. While working for W.B. Grimes, Dennis brokered the largest newspaper deal in the company’s history in 2012, working day and night for months to close the deal.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Samuel Loren and Ella Matthews Richardson; three brothers, Sam Richardson, Jim Richardson and John Richardson; and two sisters, Betty Armstrong and Frances Richardson. He leaves behind his beloved wife of 46 years, Lisa; three sons, Mark (Angie), Matthew, and Daniel (Lena); one daughter, Gerilyn (Clint) Burnett; five granddaughters, Anistyn, Ashby, Emmalyn, Elizabeth, and Ella; one grandson, Mason; and one sister, Ruth Johnson.

Funeral services were held July 30 at Plunk Funeral Home, 160 S Forrest Ave, Camden, TN, 38320. Burial followed in Eastview Cemetery on Birdsong Road, Camden.