Keith sells Carthiginian to longtime editor
CARTHAGE – Decades of Keith family leadership at The Carthaginian have been handed off to a long-time family friend with sale of the Leake County newspaper.
In a deal finalized Friday afternoon John H. Keith, publisher and owner of the paper since October, 1994, sold the publication to Waid Prather, long-time editor.
Keith and Prather have been friends since the former was in junior high school and the two met in the printing operations of The Star-Herald in Kosciusko, when George Keith was owner and publisher.
"I would like to thank all of the loyal Carthaginian readers and advertisers for all of your loyalty and friendship to my family for three generations,” John Keith said, “and I know that I have made the right decision to entrust longtime friend and coworker Waid Prather to carry on the family tradition that you have grown to expect."
Prather became only the fifth publisher of the newspaper; the first was the founder, L.M. Garrett.
For 104 years of the paper’s 142-year history, a Keith has served as publisher.
The younger Keith took the reins of the weekly after the death of his father, who had inherited leadership at the paper from his father M.M. (Big Mac) Keith in 1948.
George Keith was hailed at his death for his legacy of service to his paper, community and the State of Mississippi.
It was a legacy maintained in many ways by John Keith.
After his father’s long struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease ended in death, John Keith assumed the mantle of publisher and owner.
Among his first acts was to take the lead in a serious downtown Carthage beautification and rehabilitation program by commissioning a complete overhaul of the front of the newspaper building.
For years anyone seeking directions to the newspaper could be told to pull up in front of the best looking front doors on the square.
Keith was among community members who took the lead to save the property that served as the main entry way to McMillan Park on Highway 16E, plus acquiring property that was turned over to the City of Carthage, land that soon became baseball and soccer fields.
He is a long time member of the Carthage Rotary Club, a board member, past president and Rotarian of the Year.
Keith served on the board of directors at Leake Academy for six years and was PTO president at LA for a year.
He has served on the board of directors for the Leake County Chamber of Commerce.
He served on the board of directors for the Mississippi Press Association and Mississippi Press Services.
After working several summers with the paper, he became a full time employee of the newspaper Jan. 1, 1984.
Keith’s tenure in the publisher’s post produced an array of awards in state-wide competition among the largest weekly papers in Mississippi.
Those awards included general excellence in 2001 and Freedom of Information in 1996 and 2006, the latter award won over entries from the two largest daily newspapers in the the state, the Biloxi Sun-Herald and The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson.
Keith is a Master Mason, as was his father and grandfather, a member of Pearl River Lodge No. 105 and a 32 degree Scottish Rite Mason and Shriner.
He serves on the parish council at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Philadelphia.
An outdoorsman and sportsman, he is a member of the National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, a long time member of the Leake Country Club and a founder of the Leake County Big Buck Seminar, Supper and Big Buck Contest.
Prather, who has worked with the Carthage newspaper for 18 years, said Keith has set a high standard.
“John always gave us the freedom to do the work that needed to be done by a good community newspaper,” Prather said.
“Then when the pressure and heat built, he made sure he backed us up without fail.
“With that and the community leadership he showed, he makes for a hard act to follow.
“I will always appreciate the opportunity this represents for me, being entrusted with a community icon with such deep family roots.”
Prather, a Jackson native, has 38 years experience in all facets of community newspaper work, gleaned from positions at publications across the state, plus Texas.
His previous publisher’s experience include The Amory (Miss.) Advertiser and the Marlin (Texas) Democrat.