Ken Andrews, a splendid publisher and friend

You may have seen the news in The Clarion-Ledger today that told of the death of Kenneth Andrews, the newspaper’s former publisher and a wonderful gentleman. Ken was 83 when he died of pancreatic cancer, and he had lived a full and productive life.

Andrews came to Jackson in 1982 when Gannett bought both Jackson newspapers and the Hattiesburg American. Andrews was a stranger to most Mississippians. He was no stranger to me.

Of my 60 years on this planet, I have spent 59 as a resident of Mississippi and one in Monroe, La. My one year in Monroe, working for the News Star-Morning World (August, 1978 to August of ’79), coincided with Andrews’ being the publisher of those two newspapers.

I was first a sports writer, then promoted to sports editor/columnist. I was living away from my hometown for the first time in my life. I don’t know how many times sports writers and publishers become close friends — not often, I’d guess — but Ken and I did. His vivacious wife, Jackie, was so good to me as well.

Ken Andrews, a publisher and a gentleman.
I’ll never forget the day I told Ken I was leaving Monroe to come back home to Mississippi. He said I could leave under one condition: that he host my going-away party at his home, which he did, pool-side, inviting the entire newsroom staff and sparing no expense.

At some point during the evening, he got me off to the side and told me, “I know you think you are leaving Gannett, but I’ll guarantee this company will own those Jackson papers within the next two years.”

It turned out to be just over two. Our friendship continued and grew in Jackson. In those days we had a sports staff or 25. Ken and Jackie celebrated us all at their house when we won several top national awards for sports journalism.

Ken Andrews was a splendid publisher because he immersed himself in the community, both in Monroe and then Jackson. Like most Gannett publishers, he was a business person first, a newspaper person second. But he hired great editors, stayed out of their ways, and allowed them to bring in fine reporters and writers. Within reason, he provided the wherewithal needed to cover the news.

In all too brief a time, under Andrews and executive editor Charles Overby, the Jackson papers thrived. Under their stewardship, The Clarion-Ledger won the Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the dire need for education reform in Mississippi.

Overby, a splendid editor who worked at several newspapers in more than 20 years in the business, calls Andrews “the best publisher I ever worked for.”

Continued Overby, “He was the right man at the right time in Jackson. He and Jackie became a part of the community. They understood the importance of that in a city like Jackson.

“Ken cared deeply about what we were doing in the newsroom but he didn’t meddle,” Overby said. “He wasn’t only my publisher, he was my friend. What I admired about Ken perhaps the most is that he could have hobnobbed only with the rich and powerful in Jackson and Mississippi, but he enjoyed people of all stratas. Jackie was the same.”

Here’s what I can tell you about Ken: He was honest. He was kind. He was funny. And he could be firm when he needed to be so. He treated the janitors who emptied the trash cans with the same warm smile and charm as he did the star reporters who just won the Pulitzer. He had a way of making people feel better about themselves, which in turn made them want to work all the harder for him.

Ken was a Pensacola native, a Navy veteran, a husband of 60 years, the father of two, the grandfather of six and a great grandfather of two.

He was a helluva good man.

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