Although community newspapers are similar in every state, Utah's newspapers are unique in that many of the smaller local community newspapers are still owned and operated by the families that either started them or purchased them years ago. Ownership is simply passed down and it's not unusual in Utah to have a fourth or fifth generation news person running a paper.
This was very evident this past weekend at the 110th Annual meeting of the Utah Press Association. It is the oldest, ongoing organization in the state and this year drew nearly 100 percent of its members to the annual gathering.
Family names synonymous to Utah Press are the Fuellenbach family, whose granddaughter Laurie Wynn, publisher of the Wasatch Wave was elected president for the 2003 term. The Fuellenbachs have been part of the Richfield Reaper for at least three generations.
Other names like Wallis, a name in Vernal for four generations; the Ashby's who have been part of several newspapers in Utah for many years; the Claybaughs from Box Elder; Taylors from Moab, and the Dunns from Tooele are other examples.
This year Clifton N. Memmott was honored to the Utah Newspaper Hall of Fame. His name and accomplishments will surely be remembered by old-timers in this community as he served as publisher of the Helper Journal and later co-publisher of the Sun Advocate in the 1940's.
Memmott grew up on a Millard County farm, became a teacher, athletic coach, civic, county and state official and was a man known for his staunch convictions. But most of all, he was a dedicated journalist whose newspapers competently served three Utah communities over a span of 28 years.He largely earned the respect of others for having a strongly expressed editorial policy.
He came to Castle Country in the early 1930's first as a teacher and coach at Helper Central, and later principal of Standardville Elementary School and Helper Central. But in 1937 at the conclusion of the school term, the opportunity to become a newsman was offered to him by Hal MacKnight and Val Cowles, co-publishers of the Sun Advocate. They were searching fora managing editor of their other paper, the Helper Journal. Memmott later recalled it as "the biggest decision of my life," for he'd established his credentials after a decade as an educator, had married Marjorie Myers in 1934 and was about to become a father.
He accepted the position at the Journal in 1937 and two years later bought Cowles' share of the partnership. In 1942 MacKnight sold his half interest to N. Joe Tullius and for the next eight years they served as co-publishers. The arrangement ended in 1950 when Memmott purchased the Uintah Basin Record and Roosevelt Standard.
During his years in Helper, Clif was the city area of school consolidations.
"Closing half of the county's schools", he remembered, "Brought reaction from angry parents, business and political leaders, who protested long and loud. Naturally they weren't ready for such a drastic change."
He also directed the Helper's baseball team in the Utah State Industrial League and was a leader in obtaining a night-lighted ball park. In Helper, too, he joined Kiwanis, where he became not only an enthusiastic member but a leader. He was an officer of the Helper club and later of the Roosevelt organization.
In his column, "Editorially Speaking," he'd pressed for numerous civic improvements and had become deeply involved in determining the plan for a highway linking Carbon and Duchesne counties. Helper citizens backed one route; their Price neighbors another. It was no small satisfaction to him that the position endorsed by the Journal eventually prevailed.
The column, which occupied a page one position, touched on numerous subjects, but frequently discussed political matters, the American privilege of casting a ballot and the related importance of newspapers.
Clif joined the Utah Press Association in 1938 and was a director from two different districts during 28 years of membership, serving as president in 1947.
He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1961 and served two terms. An active and often outspoken legislator, he credibly served the district. While the Republican party acquired a narrow leadership position over the Democrats in the 1963 session, Democrats regained control in 1965 and Clif, by then a veteran legislator, became majority leader.
A surprisingly swift change of events made it his final term in the house for on June 1 1965 he was appointed by Gov. Calvin Rampton to the division of Utah's Department of Transportation. Thus he left the newspaper profession.
He retired in 1972 and passed away at age 87 in 1990.
The roster of Utah's most outstanding newspaper men and women was enhanced this past weekend with the addition of Clifton N. Memmott, an astute and devoted journalist most deserving of his place in the Utah Newspaper Hall of Fame.