More than 130 years after the newspaper was originally established and named the Tate County Record, the paper returned to its roots in June 2015 and became the Tate Record.
The newspaper was founded in 1881, less than 10 years after Tate County itself was formed from parts of DeSoto, Tunica, and Marshall counties in 1873.
The paper’s earliest editions contained short front-page stories with a small bit of advertising present throughout the rest of the paper.
In 1881, owner W.T. Medders sold the publication to John C. Roseborough, who increased the paper’s number of pages from four to eight small sheets.
Ten years later, after the paper had twice changed hands, new owner F.P. Hawkins changed the name from the Tate County Record to the North Mississippi Democrat.
Over the next six years, the paper was twice sold, and in January of 1897, the paper saw another name change, with owner J.W. Buchanan calling it The Senatobia Democrat.
The paper changed hands several more times, and its pages were increased in size, before it underwent another name change in 1928 at the hands of owner J.B. Snider, Jr. This time, the paper was dubbed the Tate County Democrat.
At that time, the newspaper’s slogan also became “For Our County and State—Independent, Unafraid, Truthful, and Clean.”
The Snider family owned the newspaper for nearly 28 years before it was sold to Hal Spragins, Jr., in 1937.
Spragins owned and operated the paper for more than 25 years, and upon his death in 1966, his wife was named publisher. However, she ultimately decided to sell the newspaper the following year to the Hederman family. At that time the Hedermans owned The Clarion-Ledger, the Jackson Daily News, and the Hattiesburg American. They later sold those newspaper properties to Gannet, but in 1971 they sold the Senatobia newspaper to veteran newspaper operators Joe and Elizabeth Lee.
The Lees immediately moved to Senatobia, leaving their son Joe in charge of the Grenada daily newspaper they had operated since 1955. The elder Lee first got into the newspaper business as a young boy in Birmingham, Ala., and was later circulation manager of the Florida Times Union. Under his leadership the Times-Union became the largest circulation newspaper in Florida.
The Lees fell in love with Senatobia and Tate County. His business philosophy was “If it’s good for Tate County, it is good for this newspaper. It is not our desire to come to Senatobia and live off the community, but to live and prosper with it.” This is the philosophy and the aim of the Tate Record.
Lee operated the paper until October 1972, when he had a heart attack at his desk and died suddenly. His widow continued to publish the paper for several years until she married Jimmy Cahill, a well-known Senatobia businessman. She soon sold the newspaper to son, Joe, and his wife, Brenda.
The third generation of Lees also worked at The Democrat – Jay, and later his sister Muffet. Jay left the newspaper business and is now an airline executive in Las Vegas. Muffet returned to education and is now an elementary “Gifted Program” teacher in Grenada. Joe still lives in Grenada but works in Senatobia two days a week.
“Shirley is the stalwart force around here,” Lee said, referring to General Manager Shirley Trimm who has been at the newspaper since 1989, and has worked with all three generations of Lees. “Her expertise and dedication, along with energy and ideas from Faye Price, Amber Holcomb, Natalie Troutt, and Jonathon Golden, have made the Tate Record one of the best small newspapers in the state,” Lee said.
As the publication sees a return to its roots with a name that is both old and new, its mission remains the same: to serve the people of Tate County with honesty, respect, and integrity.
The elder Lee’s motto still governs: “If it’s good for Tate County, it is good for this newspaper.”