Ponder, Hurt are Hall of Fame inductees

Jul 1, 2019

James R.  Randy  Ponder, 65, former longtime editor and publisher of The Sea Coast Echo in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
The late W. Harvey Hurt Jr.

Two longtime newspaper publishers — one noted for civic contributions and editorial writing and another for leading his newspaper and community through the ruins of a major hurricane — joined the dozens of other men and women in the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame.

James R. "Randy" Ponder, 65, former longtime editor and publisher of The Sea Coast Echo in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and the late W. Harvey Hurt Jr. were inducted June 21 during the Association's 153rd Annual Convention at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Biloxi.

Ponder retired in December after 50 years in the newspaper industry and is a past president of MPA and past chairman of the MPA Education Foundation. A native of Cedartown, Georgia, he started his career in Jasper, Alabama, before moving to Bay St. Louis. He later served as publisher of the Mobile County (Alabama) News before returning to Bay St. Louis as ad manager and eventual successor to former longtime publisher Ellis Cuevas.

He is credited with keeping the newspaper in print and in news racks following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The newspaper did not miss an issue after the catastrophe, and Ponder's efforts — along with those of other coastal journalists — was the focus of 2006 documentary produced by the University of Mississippi. The newspaper's office was gutted by the storm, and its staff worked for months out of cramped, rented quarters elsewhere in town.

Hurt, whose family members were the longtime owners of The Wayne County News in Waynesboro, Mississippi, also spent half a century in community journalism. The son of longtime publisher Harvey Hurt Sr., he attended Mississippi College and was president of the MPA in 1973. Hurt also served on the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Economic Council and promoted civic causes for community improvement through the newspaper.

He was the inaugural winner of the J. Oliver Emmerich Award for Editorial Excellence, first presented in 1974, for an opinion piece entitled "An Open Letter to the Employees of Wayne Manufacturing Co." The "Oliver," as it was known in its early days, was created to recognize the single best example of editorial writing in the state of Mississippi each year.

Hurt died in 1990 at the age of 79.

The two men were inducted during the President's Dinner the evening of Friday, June 21.