In front of an old block building in Woodville stands a historical marker that reads, “The Republican, established in 1823 by William A. A. Chisholm, is the oldest newspaper and business institution in continuous operation in Mississippi.” Chisholm continued as owner and publisher of the Woodville Republican until 1842, when the paper was sold to William A. Norris and Company.
John J. Leatherman followed as editor, with Owen S. Kelley as publisher. Major H. S. Van Eaton succeeded Leatherman, and W. C. Bonney followed Kelley. William J. Keller served as editor during the beginning of the Civil War and after its close, though no editor’s, publisher’s, or owner’s name appeared during the war. Following the war, John W. Bryant was the publisher and Capt. J. S. McNeily served as editor.
After a brief period in which Republican sheriff Henry W. Noble used his position as editor to advance his party’s perspectives, the newspaper returned to the Democratic Party when Col. J. H. Jones, a former Democratic lieutenant governor, became editor in 1876.
In June 1879 Capt. John S. Lewis purchased the paper. Following Lewis’s death in 1900, his son, Robert Lewis, took the helm, remaining as editor until his death in 1934. His widow, Helen Latané Lewis, subsequently became editor. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, her son, John S. Lewis, returned home to assist his mother, and in 1938 he became the youngest editor of the state’s oldest newspaper.
In 1965 John Lewis was elected president of Mississippi Press Association, a position his father had held in 1907. In 1982 John Lewis became editor emeritus of the Woodville Republican, and his son, Andrew Jackson Lewis, became the publisher-editor. The Lewis family continues to operate the paper, as it has for more than 125 years.
In 1924 Robert Lewis wrote of a major change in the production of the paper. “George Washington,” the hand-set type machine, was replaced by a linotype machine. The Woodville Republican continued to use the hot-type linotype process long after most newspapers had converted to more modern processes. Modernization of production came in 1980, with the purchase of Compugraphic typesetting equipment, and again in 1992, with Macintosh computers. By the second decade of the twenty-first century, the weekly paper had a circulation of approximately twenty-five hundred.
- A Brief History of the Woodville Republican, http://msgw.org/wilkinson/repblcn.htm
- Robert Lewis, Woodville Republican (19 July 1924)
- O’Levia Neal Wilson Wiese, The Woodville Republican: Mississippi’s Oldest Existing Newspaper (2000)