Boone remembered as great community leader
Published 5:57 pm Friday, February 17, 2023
Beloved former Suffolk News-Herald Publisher James B. “Jim” Boone Jr., founder and chairman of the board of Boone Newsmedia Inc., died Monday, Feb. 13, at UAB Hospital-Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, after a brief illness. He was 87.
Locally, those who worked with him during his seven years as the newspaper’s publisher in the 1960s recall the devotion he had to both journalism and civic causes.
Jack Nurney, a retired insurance executive, was close friends with Boone during his time in Suffolk, and the two continued their friendship through the years.
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“What a great person he was,” Nurney said. “There’s so many things about Jim Boone that were really remarkable. He had an amazing ability to think things through. He had an ability to meet with and develop relationships with people of all strata – the well-to-do, the poor folks and those in between. I’m so sorry that he’s gone.”
Boone also made an impression on good friend George Birdsong, chief executive officer and general counsel for the Birdsong Corp. in Suffolk.
“I got to know Jim through many civic activities,” he said.
Boone and Birdsong were both members of the Rotary Club in Suffolk and got to know each other well there and through many other civic causes they worked on together.
“He was a great participant in all civic things,” he said, reflecting on Boone’s time in Suffolk. “I would classify him as a great community leader.”
As publisher of the News-Herald, Birdsong said, Boone wanted to know everything that was happening in the community, adding he was interested in everything.
“His reputation was outstanding for all he did in creating a viable newspaper and then participating in community activities,” Birdsong said of Boone. “He helped the community in every way he could.”
In an Oct. 24, 1968, story announcing that Boone would be leaving Suffolk to take a new position in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he said, “I deeply regret the necessity of our move to Alabama. That is because we have enjoyed living here so much, and people have been so nice to us. Yet it is was an opportunity and a responsibility that could not be passed.”
Boone, a lifelong newspaperman, succeeded his father, Buford Boone, as publisher of The Tuscaloosa [Alabama] News in 1968 and built over the following half-century a community media company that now owns or manages 91 newspapers and related print and digital products in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
BNI purchased the Suffolk News-Herald in 2000.
“Jim Boone, by his example, set the highest bar for so many for how to lead and serve a community, civic organization, church, a business organization or his family,” said Todd Carpenter, president and chief executive officer of Boone Newsmedia and Carpenter Newsmedia. “Put simply, he made doing the right thing the main thing and that guided his every choice and decision. He was also dedicated to recognizing talent in every person that perhaps they did not know they had, then with sincere determination he dedicated himself to guiding, leading and driving them to reach their highest potential.”
Carpenter echoed sentiments of Boone shared locally by both Nurney and Birdsong.
“All who knew Jim benefitted from his benevolent interest, first in their welfare as a human being, followed by wisdom and guidance he gave generously to all that is both uncommon and special,” Carpenter said.
The company, which had operated as Boone Newspapers, Inc., since its founding, was renamed Boone Newsmedia Inc. in 2022 to reflect its considerable progress in serving readers and advertisers both digitally and in print.
Prior to joining his father at The Tuscaloosa News, Boone worked for his mentor Carmage Walls. Seven years were spent as publisher of the Suffolk News-Herald, a daily newspaper. Prior to Suffolk, Boone was a business manager and a reporter for the Baytown Sun in Texas and did group management work with other Walls-owned newspapers in that area. Before the Baytown work, he traveled for Walls in converting newspapers from hot metal/letterpress to cold type/offset. Prior to 1958, Boone worked six years in Alabama at Tuscaloosa News, while a University of Alabama and high school student.
Boone, a 1958 graduate of the School of Commerce and Business Administration at the University of Alabama and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University of Alabama (1993), served the college in many capacities. He served on the President’s Cabinet, Board of Visitors of the College of Commerce and Business Administration, the Board of Visitors of the College of Communication and Information Sciences, and on the board of the 1831 Foundation.
Boone earned the Julia & Henry Tutwiler Award from the University of Alabama and earned admission to multiple Halls of Fame: the Communications Hall of Fame, College of Communication & Information Sciences at the University of Alabama; the Alabama Business Hall of Fame, College of Commerce & Business Administration, University of Alabama; the Civic Hall of Fame, West Alabama Chamber of Commerce (Tuscaloosa); and was named a Pillar of West Alabama by the Community Foundation of Tuscaloosa. Boone was a proud Eagle Scout.
Boone earned multiple industry related awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alabama Press Association; the Casey Award from the University of Minnesota for leadership in the newspaper industry; and the Frank Mayborn Award from Southern Newspaper Publishers Association for leadership in the industry.
He served on the Board of Directors of Regions Financial Corp. and was chairman of the corporate governance committee and a member of the trust committee in Birmingham, Alabama. He also served on the Board of Directors at Regions Bank, Tuscaloosa, retiring from both in 2004 after many years of service.
Boone has served on numerous boards, such as the Randall Publishing Co. Board of Directors; the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association Board of Directors; American Press Institute Southeastern Advisory Board; West Alabama Chamber of Commerce (past president); Christ Episcopal Church Vestry; DCH Regional Medical Center Foundation (twice past president); Tuscaloosa Academy Board of Trustees (twice past president); United Way (past director and president and twice drive chairman); YMCA (past director and president); Salvation Army Advisory Board (past chairman); Tuscaloosa Park and Recreation Authority Board (three years as chairman); Journalism Foundation of Alabama Press Association (past president); and on the Board of Trustees of the Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art in Tuscaloosa.
Boone was a founding member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Tuscaloosa.
Boone, who had moved in 2022 from Tuscaloosa to Lowndesboro, Alabama, remained active in BNI and with its affiliate newspapers until his death, regularly meeting with senior management, publishers and other staff members by video conference.
“We are all so fortunate to have his example to follow because it inspires us to pause and think about our fellow man, and then to work harder to strive to make those around us better,” Carpenter said of Boone. “That is what he did, every day, without pause, rest or interest in recognition for his good deeds.”
The funeral was held Saturday at the Lowndesboro Methodist Church, 198 S. Broad St., Lowndesboro, Alabama., followed by a graveside service at Oakview Cemetery in Lowndesboro and a gathering at The Marengo House, 100 N. Broad St., Lowndesboro.
Boone is survived by his wife, Carolyn, and five children.