The world of community journalism has lost a good man.
Jerry H. Adkins, the first circulation manager for the daily Commonwealth Journal, died Tuesday at the Jean Waddle Hospice Care Center in Somerset. He was 80.
Adkins, a native of Huntington, West Va., joined the Somerset newspaper in December 1965, just prior to merger of The Commonwealth and The Somerset Journal, two weekly newspaper, into the daily Commonwealth Journal, first published Monday, January 3, 1966.
A people person, Adkins truly understood the vital connection between a newspaper and its readers. He never forgot stark differences between community journalism and the metropolitan press. Community newspapers belong to us. Big city papers are cold and impersonal.
Adkins drove back roads of Pulaski County, knocking on doors and talking with rural people. He was a promoter; he offered special discounts to get people started reading the new daily newspaper. Adkins was outgoing and friendly, never meeting a stranger.
He was totally convinced once householders were accustomed to having the daily newspaper in a green tube in front of their houses they would become Commonwealth Journal subscribers.
It worked. Pulaski countians loved their new daily newspaper. Adkins established motor routes in places previously familiar with only a rural mail carrier. The daily Commonwealth Journal was off and running under Adkins’ watchful eye.
A journalist at heart, Adkins, during his travels around the county, never missed a good story. During the 10 years Adkins headed the Commonwealth Journal Circulation Department, he brought hundreds of story ideas back to editors, often accompanying reporters to the scene.
Adkins found a farm tractor that would start when lightning flashed; a clock in the Texas community that ran backward; an old man who lived by God’s time, refusing to accept Daylight Saving Time; and a nest of vicious baby copperheads, triggering a story that launched the Humble Reporter column in this newspaper.
The late James L. “Jim Lee” Crawford, former publisher and editor of the Corbin Times-Tribune, responded to the copperhead story with a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the snakes were not ill-tempered, only Pulaski County “blow snakes.”
Bill Mardis, then city editor of the Commonwealth Journal, fired back, defending the reputation of Pulaski County snakes, using Adkins as a witness to the ferocity of the baby copperheads. One column led to another and Humble Reporter was born.
Adkins had a sense of humor. He loved Pulaski County and its people. He knew names make news, and people love to read about what their friends and neighbors do. This is community journalism, a heartbeat of the area it serves.
Adkins left the Commonwealth Journal in 1974 to accept the job of circulation manager in Wheeling, West Virginia. He and his wife, the former Alice Baker, owned and operated Cabell Record Newspaper in Milton, West Virginia, for 10 years.
In 1989, Adkins became general manager for three weekly newspapers in Yadkinville, North Carolina. He returned to Kentucky in 1992 and retired from the Times Tribune in Corbin in 1995.
Adkins served in the U.S. Navy during the 1950s and was a member of the I.O.O.F. He was a Kentucky Colonel, member of the Kentucky and West Virginia press associations, and president of the Interstate Circulation Association.
Mr. Adkins body is at Somerset Undertaking Company. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, January 11, at First United Methodist Church.
Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church with Bro. Steve Spitzer officiating. Interment will follow at Somerset Cemetery.