Remembering the Editorís Wife

(Mrs. J.J. Baugh was the wife of the owner and editor of the Searcy Daily Citizen and White County Citizen and also served as local and city editor.)

By FARRIS W. WOOD

 

I stood before Mrs. Baugh trembling from head to foot. I was in the First Presbyterian Church in Searcy. I was 7 years old and I had to recite Catechism from memory. I had tried to get out of it, but I couldnít. My motherís word was absolute law in these matters. I had looked toward my older brothers and they just looked away.

Not only did I have to memorize it, but I also had to prove a reasonable understanding of it to Mrs. Baugh. It wasnít easy for a kid to be a Presbyterian in the 1930s. You had to know a lot of stuff. After a little prompting from her on the second page, I explained my understanding and answered a couple of her questions.

Mrs. Baugh secured my Sunday School pin on my shirt. It was proof of perfect attendance for a whole year. Then Mrs. Baugh stepped out of character for a few moments. She hugged me. I nearly wet my pants.

I have often reflected on what I know of Mrs. Baughís life. She was an old lady when I knew her. Her husband was in ill health. She was a moving force in the community and in my church. She was intelligent and aggressive. When a problem made its presence known, she would wait for the male animals around her to address it. If they didnít, she stepped into the breach. When she did, things started to happen to get the job done.

She gave me my first newspaper job on the Daily Citizen. At age 10, I started carrying a paper route. It was a real adventure. The saddle bags on my bicycle wouldnít hold all the papers if they were folded. So I folded enough in the alley at the newspaper office to get me to Maidie Armstrongís house. If Maidie was home, she often came out into the front yard and we would visit while I folded enough to get me to the Cypert family home.

Often while I folded papers there, Benton Cypert would play the flute from the upstairs porch. I would speak to Benton but he wouldnít talk to me. He would communicate only musically. It was a beautiful professional quality. I would fold enough papers to get me to the Van Patten garage and salvage yard. Then a visit with Bill Durham and enough papers folded to get me home.

Mrs. Baugh supervised most of this. She kept up with the paper boys. How she met a payroll in those days has always been a wonder to me.

School kids would laugh at Mrs. Baugh driving around town in her green 1935 Ford in second gear and not even knowing it. Not only did she not know it, but she also didnít care. After all, the thing started; it ran and she guided it, generally speaking, between sidewalks around town. It got her where she wanted to go. On rainy Sundays, she would make trip after trip taking people to church who didnít have transportation. She would generally pass up non-Presbyterians. While we didnít feel, as some do, that Presbyterians would one day go to heaven by themselves, to accommodate other congregations was asking too much.

Mrs. Baugh loved her family, her church, her business and her community. Her every waking moment was spent in support of us all. She was one of the forces for good in my childhood. She demonstrated integrity, honesty and Christianity.

(The author is a member of the White County Historical Society.)