Reflections on William B. Townsend
Seven years after the Dahlonega Nugget was started in 1890, William Benjamin Townsend leased the struggling newspaper with a borrowed $2.50. Over the next forty three years he was the sole employee of the paper - publisher, editor, printer, writer and whatever else needed doing. In each of the 52 issues per year he would set the type from his case, line by line without any written aid. Townsend did no proofreading saying to his readers: "If you see a typographical error in The Nugget, don't stop to criticize the editor. It won't hurt you, or do you any harm."
With a meager education and a controvertible background Townsend became a legendary figure in the newspaper field. His witty, often cranky but always observant columns were picked up by major newspapers across the Unites States. His biographer A. F. Dean said of him: "In a dinky one-room shop at the foot of a hill on a side street, Ye Editor sent his soul out to the world once a week... Sometimes the soul was black with obscenity and sometimes it was purity itself with sublime thoughts, and all the time it was against corruption and pretense, the false and the untrue."
For a man who spoke his mind and named names, he was liked. The editor was elected to almost every office available in Lumpkin County during his long career. He was still going strong at 76 when it ended. One of his many obituaries describes him "working away in his little shop, he felt weak and sat down to rest. There, where he had worked and dreamed and been happy for so many years, the end came. It marked the completion of a long and brilliant career. It was the end of a rich life. It was a climax fitting and proper. It was a newspaper man dying, as he had lived, on the job." Mr. Townsend was laid rest in Mount Hope cemetery "in the shadow of his beloved Blue Ridge Mountains."
It is the reissue of the Dean biography, “Observations from a Peak in Lumpkin County” by Deborah Smith, that brought Wayne Knuckles, the current editor of The Nugget, to the March 2012 Society meeting where he regaled us with vivid stories of his earlier counterpart. Soon after the presentation started Mr. Townsend made a surprise appearance.
Please press the play button in the player below to hear Wayne Knuckle's audio presentation: