The Neshoba Democrat
How do you champion your community while at the same time exposing its flaws, misdeeds and acts of corruption? This is a question asked by countless newspaper editors and publishers across the country. And one answered quite satisfactorily by Stanley Dearman.
And this has not always been an easy task. As editor and publisher of The Neshoba Democrat in Philadelphia for over 40 years, Dearman often had the unenviable task of telling the story of a community that is a study in contrasts.
To many, Neshoba County is the fair, which is held under the bright, hot summer sun and has become a statewide affair known for it raucous cabin parties and even more raucous political stumping. To others it the dark secrets hidden in its hills, particularly the secrets of one night in 1964 that have never been fully brought to light and for which justice has never been served.
Dearman recognized that, while Neshoba County was all of this, it was also much more. To many, it was simply home and, more specifically, it was the people who called it home. Dearman’s understanding of this was evident in both his coverage and the compassion with which he provided this coverage first as reporter for a daily newspaper and later as editor, publisher and owner of the weekly newspaper.
“I have been around the courageous and the cowardly and Stanley is just one of those rare, unique people that walks the face of this earth,” former Secretary of State Dick Molpus, a Neshoba County native, wrote in a letter in support of Dearman’s nomination. “He’s a rare blend of strength, substance, scrappiness, vision, and at the same time, tempered with compassion and gentleness and overall good heart. Those are rare qualities to see mixed up all in one person.”
After graduating from Meridian High School in 1950, Dearman attended Meridian Junior College for a year before entering the U.S. Navy during the Korean Conflict. He was stationed for three years in Hawaii and for a year in California.
Military service was followed by a second year at Meridian Junior College. He entered the University of Mississippi 1957 and graduated in 1959 with degrees in English and journalism. While at Ole Miss, Dearman was elected editor of the student newspaper, The Mississippian, now the Daily Mississippian.
From 1960 until November 1966, he worked at The Meridian Star as a reporter and photographer in general assignments and later as state editor. He served as managing editor of the Democrat from November 1966 until February 1968, when he purchased the paper from August G. Eckert and Phyllis Eckert Weber of Louisiana.
“He has been a solid spokesman for Philadelphia and Neshoba County as we have carried the burden of the unsolved murders of James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman,” wrote Molpus.
In 1989, he organized a commemoration to honor the three men.
Although he sold the Democrat on August 1, 2000, Dearman has remained active in the civic affairs of Neshoba County. In 2002, he wrote an editorial calling for prosecution of those responsible for the murders of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman. He is a member of the Philadelphia Coalition, a multi-ethnic group that publicly called for justice in the case in 2004.
The civil rights-era murders are just one of the many topics, from accountability for Neshoba County General Hospital to school desegregation, that Dearman covered on both the news and editorial pages of his newspaper. Throughout it all, as Molpus observed, Dearman “recognized that news did not have to be headline grabbing to be newsworthy -- that oftentimes what binds us together in a community are the small things.”