Inducted June 19, 2009
Jim Abbott retired in 2008 as publisher and editor of The Enterprise-Tocsin in Indianola after a 38-year career as a community journalist.
A native of Greenwood, Abbott was 26 and had recently returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam when he took the reins of the weekly newspaper owned by the late John Emmerich, publisher of The Greenwood Commonwealth and a past president of the Mississippi Press Association. During his career, Abbott walked a fine line between journalist and community activist, steering the paper’s coverage of such tender issues as race relations, crime and politics.
“We tried to keep the trust of our readers by covering even the toughest stories, including those which sometimes reflected negatively on even the most powerful in town,” Abbott told The Greenwood Commonwealth. “We were determined to live up to our ‘watchdog’ role in the community.”
In 1996, The Enterprise-Tocsin was singled out for distinction by three journalism professors in an article for the Western Journal of Black Studies. The panel complimented Abbott’s editorial integrity and the paper’s unwillingness to shy away from covering a controversial boycott of local businesses by black citizens during a community protest a decade earlier.
“The case deserves to be studied by all newspapers as a shining example of racial tolerance and sensitivity that can be given impetus by our country’s community press,” an article in the American Journalism Review quoted the authors as saying.
Over the years, Abbott has been lauded by his peers for producing an exemplary community paper.
“(His) photography set the bar for every single newspaper in the state with a variety of photos, such as the one of an on-duty policeman napping in his car, a spring dogwood blossom, the excited faces of children on a Christmas parade float, a misspelled highway sign, an overturned truck and, many times, garbage where it shouldn’t be,” wrote Lisa McNeece of The Calhoun County Journal, a past MPA president who nominated Abbot for the Hall of Fame.
“Of the many newspapers that came to our paper every week, The Enterprise-Tocsin was a must read.”
Abbott is a past recipient of the Silver Em Award from Ole Miss. After retirement he was involved in the opening and operation of a $14 million museum honoring the life and career of Sunflower County native B.B. King.
He and his wife, Cynthia, now reside in Oxford.