Always impatient and short-fused, he pushed the newspaper to profitability, but that was not enough. He was determined to develop Tupelo and the surrounding agricultural region. He created or encouraged innumerable community efforts, ultimately channeling more than a million dollars into an early reading program for the region’s schools. At first slow to respond to Brown v. Board, his newspaper later played a key role in supporting and preserving an integrated public school system in Tupelo.

He married the girl next door, who put up with him for decades (she left him once, briefly) and succeeded him as publisher after his death. Robert Blade, a journalism professor, writes of McLean, his family, and his colleagues with affection and candor, if occasionally with excessive detail. But who can blame him?

 

James Boylan is CJR’s founding editor.