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Weekly 150

The Washburns (Part II): James and Ramona Washburn

Posted 1/21/20

James Loyd Washburn is remembered as one of the hardest working people in McKenzie. He was a person who loved his family, the city of McKenzie, the State of Tennessee, the United States and his fellow man. Dropping out of school in the ninth grade, he became a self-educated man with the ability to learn complex skills in addition to understanding and performing intricate business tasks.

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Weekly 150

The Washburns (Part II): James and Ramona Washburn

Posted

James Loyd Washburn is remembered as one of the hardest working people in McKenzie. He was a person who loved his family, the city of McKenzie, the State of Tennessee, the United States and his fellow man. Dropping out of school in the ninth grade, he became a self-educated man with the ability to learn complex skills in addition to understanding and performing intricate business tasks.

James married Ramona Mae Kemp on May 22, 1948, about the same time that he began his newspaper career. He started working in the newspaper business as a “printer’s devil.” The term printer’s devil serves to describe the position as an apprentice to a master printer; the origins came from parts of apprentices’ skin inevitably being stained black by the ink, and the worn and broken lead type was thrown into a hellbox, which the printer’s devil must take to the furnace for melting and recasting.

He would arrive at the newspaper office in McKenzie thirty minutes early during the winter months building fires in the coal-burning stoves to warm the building before the other employees arrived. James rose to the position of shop foreman and progressed to the general manager of The McKenzie Banner and Dresden Enterprise. On April 1, 1968, James and Karl Barlow purchased the McKenzie Banner and Dresden Enterprise newspapers from J. Frank Barlow. In 1980, James purchased Karl Barlow’s interest in the two newspapers and became the sole owner and publisher.

James was instrumental in the formation of Associated Publishers, Inc. (API) in Huntingdon, in 1973, which printed a total of nine weekly newspapers at the time it was formed on a modern web offset printing press. (Web offset is a form of offset printing in which a continuous roll of paper is fed through the printing press. Pages are separated and cut to size after they have been printed.) He served as manager and president of API until 1984.

In January 1982, he transferred an interest in Tri-County Publishing, Inc., which owned the newspapers, to his two sons, Jeffery T. Washburn and Joel T. Washburn. He was active in publishing the two newspapers and operating the commercial print shop until the day of his hospitalization for brain surgery in November 1984. He never recovered from the surgery.

After a three-year fight with a brain tumor, February 18, 1985, James died. He was buried on February 20, 1985, at Carroll County Memorial Gardens between Huntingdon and McKenzie.

James joined Caledonia Missionary Baptist Church in 1948 and served as the church secretary for some time. The family began attending McKenzie First Baptist Church in 1960 where he was ordained as a deacon for the church on September 17, 1967.

At First Baptist, he served as a Sunday School teacher, Training Union Director for young boys and drove the church bus for many outings. He was active in McKenzie Boy Scout Troop 78 while his two boys were members. He served as scoutmaster.

He was very active in McKenzie and Carroll County. He was a charter member of the McKenzie Jaycees and served as the organization’s president and as chairman of many projects conducted by the group. He was a member of the McKenzie Chamber of Commerce and was instrumental along with Bob Greene of Huntingdon in forming the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.

On September 5, 1976, the Webb School Alumni Association of McKenzie honored James for his work in assisting the organization and providing publicity for the organization’s annual reunion. James was a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4939 of McKenzie. He was a member of the McKenzie Rotary Club and was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow in July 1982. He served as a member of the McKenzie Industrial Bond Board and other city and county committees during his lifetime.

When James died in 1985, Ramona became the majority owner of Tri-County Publishing and took the title of publisher of both publications; a title she held until April 2015.

Born October 1, 1932, to James Shobe Kemp and Lillie Mae Chapman Kemp, Ramona was born in Weakley County and attended Henry School. She went on to earn her GED and attended the area state vocational school majoring in office occupations. She, like James, was work-oriented and active in the community.

Along with serving as publisher and co-owner with her sons, she worked as a sales representative for Tri-County Publishing and secretary of API. She was a charter member of the McKenzie Jaycettes, serving a secretary, president, state director and was named Woman of the Year. She was president of the McKenzie PTA, secretary-treasurer of the Carroll County PTA, president of the Carroll County Democrat Women, member of the Democrat Executive Committee and served on the Carroll County Election Commission.

Ramona was a member of the Homecoming ‘86 steering committee, director of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce serving as Membership chairwoman, Cub Scout den mother, member of the Carroll County Voc-Tech School Committee, McKenzie Voc-Tech School Advisory Committee and a member of the VFW Post 4939 Auxiliary.

In 2015, Ramona sold her shares of Tri-County Publishing to her sons, Joel and Jeff. Joel assumed the position of publisher of The McKenzie Banner and Dresden Enterprise. Four years later, in September 2019, Joel became the sole owner of Tri-County Publishing, Inc.

Next week, I will continue the Washburn family legacy at The McKenzie Banner.

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Rotary Dist. 6760, Asst. Governor

WestStar Class of 2019

P: 731.352.3323

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com

Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.

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