The Tunica Times was founded in Austin, Mississippi, in 1878 by P. A. Bobbitt. Little is known about the paper’s origins and early years, but it reappeared in 1908 with Otis M. Perrine as publisher. Perrine published the paper from the second floor of the Lowe Building in downtown Tunica.
In the early 1900s, two merchants and planters named Owens acquired the Tunica Times through the collection of a debt. A third partner, B. L. Russell, became the paper’s manager and editor. The Owens brothers eventually sold their share of the newspaper to Russell, who then partnered with L. C. Cannon. In the summer of 1911 the pair hired editor Frank Barlow, who eventually purchased the paper.
In 1922 Barlow sold the paper to Clayton Rand, who also owned the Neshoba Democrat, the DeKalb Democrat, the Dixie Press in Gulfport, and the Mississippi Guide. Rand served as president of the Mississippi Press Association in 1925–26, as a director of the National Editorial Association (now the National Newspaper Association) beginning in 1930, and as the association’s president in 1936. He won two national editorial awards and wrote a column, “Crossroads Scribe,” that appeared in newspapers across the country.
The Wisconsin-born Rand had moved to Bond, Mississippi, at age seven. He earned bachelor’s degrees from Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Mississippi State University) in 1911 and from Harvard University in 1913. He also attended Harvard Law School. Rand was a political conservative who campaigned against the New Deal, John F. Kennedy’s administration, and the federal government. But he also sought to improve the living standards of the local citizens, backed a consolidated school system, and opposed the Ku Klux Klan. Rand hired Turner Catledge, later the editor of the New York Times, as a reporter and editor.
In October 1923 Rand sold the Tunica Times to J. B. Snider, who changed the paper’s name to the Tunica Times-Democrat. Snider employed several editors until 1936, when he sold the paper to Paul E. Phillips. After Phillips’s death, his widow, Margaret Phillips, became the editor and publisher. She served two terms as president of the Mississippi Press Women (1960–62 and 1964–66). The paper was known for its conservative stance on civil rights issues.
The Phillips family owned the paper for forty-three years before selling it in 1979 to Joe Lee III, current owner of the Grenada Daily Star. Lee served as publisher of the Tunica Times-Democrat until Brooks Taylor purchased the paper in September 1991. Taylor changed the paper’s name back to the Tunica Times and relocated it to larger offices. The Times is published weekly and reaches newsstands on Thursdays. It has a circulation of about twenty-three hundred and serves Tunica, Robinsonville, and Dundee.
Over the years, the Mississippi Press Association has recognized staff members for numerous accomplishments in reporting, photography, advertising, layout and design, and general excellence. In 2003 the paper received the Mississippi Press Association’s inaugural Freedom of Information Award.
- Elizabeth V. Burt, Women’s Press Organizations, 1881–1999 (2000)
- Clayton Rand Papers, 1918–71, Special Collections, Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University
- Julius E. Thompson, The Black Press in Mississippi, 1865–1985 (1993)