Samford University’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) inducted the late Harold E. Martin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning graduate, and Dr. Dennis R. Jones, an award-winning faculty member, as 2010 honorees of its Wall of Fame during Homecoming Saturday, Nov. 6.
The Wall of Fame recognizes people who have made “exceptional contributions to the department or to the field of journalism and mass communication,” according to Dr. Bernie N. Ankney, department chair.
Martin and Jones were honored prior to the department’s annual Homecoming luncheon. Journalism graduate Robyn Blaikie Collins, cochair of the JMC Advisory Council, presided at the program in Swearingen Hall.
Martin, a 1954 graduate, was editor and publisher of The Montgomery Advertiser and its afternoon counterpart, The Alabama Journal, when the newspapers won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for a year-long series of articles on the pharmaceutical industry testing drugs on Alabama prison inmates. It was the first Pulitzer Prize for reporting won by an Alabama journalist.
Dr. Ankney described Martin as “an amazing individual” and “an icon of Alabama journalism” who “never flinched.” He started in journalism as a newsboy crying out, “Read all about it!” Ankney said. Noting that Martin was a printer before he entered the worlds of newspaper reporting, management and publishing, Ankney said, “There was not a job he couldn’t do.”
Martin served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and worked as a newspaper printer after the war. He entered Samford in 1950 at the age of 27 and continued to work full-time as a printer at night while pursuing his degree. He graduated in four years with honors, and went on to earn a master’s degree from Syracuse University.
Martin worked on the production side of the newspaper industry with the Syracuse Herald, St. Louis Globe-Democrat and Birmingham News until 1963, when he was named editor of the Montgomery papers. He left Montgomery in 1970 to become owner with his wife Jean of newspapers in Arkansas and Tennessee.
After serving as executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission in 1979, Martin became president of Jefferson-Pilot Publications from 1980 through 1984, overseeing more than two dozen newspapers in the South and Midwest.
The Martins established a scholarship fund in the mid-1980s to help Samford journalism students, and later endowed the Harold and Jean Martin Writing Awards for Samford journalism students. Harold Martin died in 2007.
Dr. Jones called his induction “humbling and overwhelming.” He likened his teaching experiences to those of a coach, which he was in high school. “Coaches become famous or infamous not because of their personal accomplishments, but because of their players,” or in his case, the successes of his students. He listed a number of former students in his remarks.
Jones joined the Samford department in 1991 after serving as a journalism professor at the University of South Carolina, University of Southern Mississippi and Radford University in Virginia. He has taught a full range of courses at Samford and served as adviser to The Crimson student newspaper. In 1998 he launched Exodus, Samford’s award-winning student magazine.
Jones was named Educator of the Year by the Southeast Journalism Conference and a Master Teacher in the Secondary Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication—both in 2003. The same year, he won Samford’s John H. Buchanan Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching. In 2009, Samford’s chapter of Kappa Tau Alpha national journalism honor society was named in honor of Jones.
A graduate of Manchester College in Indiana, Jones taught high school journalism and coached wrestling before pursuing graduate work at the University of South Carolina, where he earned master and Ph.D. degrees. He taught at South Carolina for 12 years.
Jones joined Southern Mississippi in 1983 and was named chair of its journalism department in 1984. The department earned accreditation and almost doubled its enrollment during his tenure.