Hederman Family

The Hederman family interests have included newspapers, a printing business, a television station, banking, and real estate. As longtime publishers of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News, they used the newspapers to promote their conservative views.

The family empire began in 1894 when Robert “Bert” Hederman and Tom Hederman moved with their widowed mother, Susan Virginia Hederman, to Jackson from Hillsboro. Although only in their teens, the boys began working for Col. Robert H. Henry, a cousin, at the Clarion-Ledger. The brothers purchased the newspaper’s small job printing division in 1898. In 1902 the printing business was moved to Capitol Street, adjacent to the Clarion-Ledger, and the business was named Hederman Brothers. The business moved to South State Street in 1907 and to East Pearl Street in 1909. The Hedermans acquired the Clarion-Ledger in 1922 from Henry and co-owner Col. J. L. Power. Bert Hederman, who married Jennie Belle Taylor, took over the printing business, and Thomas Hederman, who married Pearl Smith, became the paper’s business manager and editor. Bob, Zach, and Henry, sons of Jennie and Bert Hederman, and Tom Jr. and Arnold, sons of Pearl and Thomas Hederman, worked in the businesses.

In 1954 cousins Robert M. Hederman Jr. and Thomas M. Hederman Jr. acquired the Jackson Daily News and merged its printing plant with that of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Tom Jr., who graduated from Mississippi College and Columbia University, served as editor of the two dailies and six weekly papers beginning in 1948. Bob Hederman, a graduate of Mississippi College and New York University, served as publisher. Their brothers also earned undergraduate degrees at Mississippi College, left Mississippi for graduate degrees, and then returned to Jackson. Arnold Hederman became sports editor of the Clarion-Ledger; Zach and Henry Hederman received graduate degrees in printing engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and then went to work at the printing company. The pattern continued into the next generation. Cousins Robert Hederman III, Rea Hederman, Hap Hederman, and Zach Hederman Jr. began their publishing careers at the family-owned Madison County Herald. Zach Jr. and Hap subsequently focused on the printing business; Robert III and Rea worked at the newspaper. In 1960, Bob, Zach, and Henry purchased the Hattiesburg American.

The family’s power and influence extended to state politics. Family members worked with Gov. Ross Barnett in his unsuccessful effort to keep James Meredith from enrolling at the University of Mississippi in Oxford in 1962 and supported the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger headline about the June 1963 arrest of Byron De La Beckwith in the murder of Medgar Evers, “Californian Is Charged with Murder of Evers,” covered up De La Beckwith’s long residence in Greenwood and his membership in right-wing groups in Mississippi. The papers also editorialized against the sale of alcohol, and the Hedermans’ influence helped maintain Prohibition in Mississippi until 1966, when it became the last state in the South to permit alcohol sales. Family members also served on governmental boards and bodies and were active members of Jackson’s First Baptist Church. The family-owned Capitol Broadcasting Company also owned WJTV, which went on the air on 20 January 1953. The station was known for upholding the goals of white supremacy and faced licensing challenges during the civil rights era. The station is now owned by Media General.

Rea Hederman, Robert Hederman Jr.’s son, joined the staff of the Clarion-Ledger in 1973 and served as city editor and managing editor before becoming executive editor in 1980. He worked to change the tone of the newspaper, and during his tenure the paper won several national awards, including a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award in 1978, a Heywood Broun Award in 1979, a George Polk Award in 1981, and a National Education Reporting Award in 1982. The paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for its stories on Mississippi’s educational system. Rea Hederman did not control the editorial page, however, and the family was sharply divided over his coverage of issues such as police brutality toward blacks in Jackson and the plight of poverty-stricken black farmers in the Delta. In 1984 Rea Hederman; his brother, Robert; and his two sisters, Jan Hederman Lipscomb and Sara Hederman; purchased the New York Review of Books for about five million dollars. Rea Hederman left Mississippi.

In 1982 the Hederman family sold the morning Jackson Clarion-Ledger (circulation 66,620), the afternoon Jackson Daily News (40,147), the Hattiesburg American, and newspapers in Canton, Clinton, Petal, Senatobia, Ocean Springs, and Lumberton to the Gannett Company. At that time, Hap Hederman became president and CEO of the printing company. The Hederman Brothers printing building, adjacent to the newspaper building, was sold to Gannett in 1993, and the printing company was moved to Ridgeland. Doug Hederman joined his father and grandfather in the company in 1997, and the following year the firm became a division of Master Graphics. Family members continue to be important in Mississippi philanthropy and economic development.

Further Reading

  • Marcel Dufresne, American Journalism Review (October 1991)
  • Peggy Elam and Loretta Pendergrast, Jackson Clarion-Ledger (2 April 1982)
  • Kathy Lally, Baltimore Sun Journal (5 January 1997)
  • New York Times (8 January 1985)
  • Bill Prochnau, Washington Post (25 April 1983)
  • David Remnick, Washington Post (12 December 1984)
  • James Silver, Mississippi: The Closed Society (1964)
  • Kathleen Wickham, Winning the Pulitzer Prize: The Role of the “Clarion-Ledger” in the Adoption of the 1982 Education Reform Act (2007)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Hederman Family
  • Author
  • Website Name Mississippi Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date February 29, 2020
  • Publisher Center for Study of Southern Culture
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 14, 2018