Writer and editor Millard Grimes embodies the evolution of Georgia’s modern newspaper industry. Born in Newnan on March 8, 1930, he grew up in LaGrange and Columbus. Grimes cut his teeth in the business as a teenaged copy boy at the Columbus Ledger (later Columbus Ledger-Enquirer), tending stories as they traveled through the newsroom via pneumatic tube for a weekly salary of $18.75. Later he graduated to proofreader and sports correspondent while still in high school. At the University of Georgia (UGA), Grimes was an editor of the student newspaper, the Red and Black. He graduated from UGA in 1951. He and his wife, Charlotte, have three children.
Grimes was working at the Ledger during the blossoming of “the Golden Age of newspapers,” as he describes it in The Last Linotype: The Story of Georgia and Its Newspapers since World War II (1985). This golden age, which began in 1950, was a particularly auspicious era in the history of the Ledger. In 1955 the paper’s documentation of the widespread racketeering and government corruption in nearby Phenix City, Alabama, won a Pulitzer Prize for public service. Grimes, then assistant news editor, left Columbus on the very day in 1955 that the Pulitzers were announced to continue his journalistic odyssey, which would eventually take him from copy boy to publishing chief executive officer at more than twenty daily and weekly newspapers in Georgia and Alabama. (Along the way, he held the top editing post at many newspapers, including the Enquirer, and headed the Georgia Press Association in 1985-86.) He witnessed the beginnings of several star journalists’ careers, including the hiring in the 1960s of a young Lewis Grizzard at the Athens Daily News. Grimes also hired Rheta Grimsley Johnson at the Opelika-Auburn News in the 1970s, despite at first protesting, according to Johnson, that he didn’t “have enough trash cans to hire another person.”
Grimes entered the world of magazine publishing by buying the quarterly Georgia Journal and Georgia Trend, a statewide business magazine. Georgia Trend was first launched in September 1985 with a $4 million budget from its owner, the Times Publishing Company in St. Petersburg, Florida, and its first editor was Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Patterson. Patterson was best known as the Atlanta Constitution editor who succeeded Ralph McGill and continued McGill’s efforts to reason with a city embroiled in a civil rights crisis.
Despite numerous awards, Georgia Trend had lost considerable amounts of money each year since its establishment, and Times Publishing eventually put the publication up for sale. Grimes took the chance, buying Georgia Trend in 1991 for less than $200,000 (also agreeing to invest $500,000 and two years into making it profitable), and put his considerable publishing experience to the test. It worked well enough for him to sell the publication the following year, but the decision gnawed at him until he bought it back in 1994. In January 1999 Grimes sold Georgia Trend again, to developer Tom Cousins, of Atlanta, and journalist Neely Young, of Cedartown. Young would later write,”Millard has a deep love of this magazine and didn’t want to sell it to a large chain. He wanted to sell the magazine to native Georgians, people he felt would take care of it and run it with the Georgia community in mind.”
In 1999 Grimes funded the Millard B. Grimes Laboratory for Excellence in Print Journalism at UGA’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and he serves on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Warm Springs Memorial advisory board. Now retired, Grimes lives in Athens.