JEKYLL ISLAND — The successful media career of the late Charles A. Smithgall Jr. was celebrated Thursday when he was inducted into the Georgia Newspaper Hall of Fame.
Smithgall, who co-founded The Times in 1947 with his wife Lessie, was one of seven inductees honored at the Georgia Press Association’s 125th annual convention at the Jekyll Island Club.
One of Smithgall’s sons, Thurmond, accepted the award on behalf of his family, calling his father a “visionary.”
“Our family is extremely honored” by the induction, the son said.
The Times nominated Smithgall for the honor.
Charles Smithgall graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1933 and after working for the college radio station he moved to WSB, where he was the first to broadcast the news of the April 6, 1936, tornado that hit Gainesville.
He founded WGGA, a Gainesville radio station, with a group of friends in 1941.
He moved to Gainesville in 1946 to convert the weekly Eagle into a daily newspaper, and The Times began operation in 1947 as the Gainesville Daily Times.
After founding The Times, Smithgall also started the Poultry Times and Southeastern Poultry Times, which later merged with Poultry & Egg News. Gannett Co. Inc. purchased The Times and poultry publications in 1981. In 2004, The Times was acquired by Georgia-based Morris Multimedia Inc.
Smithgall also acquired radio stations in the region and helped form Georgia Community Papers Inc., which published the Gwinnett Daily News and a number of weeklies. He sold his interest in that to the New York Times in 1987.
Smithgall was a conservationist, securing about 5,000 acres in White County, which later became Smithgall Woods and was donated to the state of Georgia. In 2000, the Smithgall family donated 168 acres of its Hall County property to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Plans are now in the works to develop that land into the Smithgall Woodland Gardens.
Smithgall received numerous awards throughout his life for both his work in business and conservation; these included the Di Gamma Kappa Pioneer of Georgia Broadcasting Award, the Ed Dodd Conservation award from the Elachee Nature Science Center and being named one of 100 Georgians of the Century by Georgia Trend Magazine in 2000. Smithgall died in 2002.
The hall of fame only inducts people after their death. Others who were inducted along with Smithgall include Robert D. Fowler, publisher of the Gwinnett Daily News; David Stanley Parkman, publisher of The Times-Georgian, Carrollton; William Curran Rogers Sr., editor and publisher of The Forest-Blade, Swainsboro; James Jefferson Thomasson, founder and manager of The Newnan Times-Herald; James W. “Billy” Watson, general manager of the Macon Telegraph & News and president and publisher of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer; and Charles Memory Williamson Jr., editor and publisher of The Darien News.
Inductees will be honored with a permanent display in the Newspaper Hall of Fame at the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia in Athens.