The Ada News, established in 1904, services Ada, Pontotoc and surrounding counties. Subscription prices: Daily, $.75 per copy; Saturday, $1.50 per copy.
The beginnings of The Ada News are almost as old as the town itself. In 1900, The Ada Star was established under the ownership of E.G. Phelps, a newspaper man from Shawnee. He printed the town’s news on a primitive army press — one page at a time.
Charley Lindsay purchased The Star early in 1901 and sold it that same year to Joe “Windy Joe” Simpson. Simpson began operating the newspaper immediately and continued until the summer of 1902, when he sold the operation to W.W. Higgins, a school teacher from Belton, Texas. Higgins changed the name of The Star to The Ada Weekly Democrat.
In the meantime, A.E. Baker, editor of The Paul’s Valley News, and Tom Horn launched The Ada Weekly News. He soon sold his share of the business to Marvin Brown and Carlton Weaver. Otis Weaver, brother of Carlton, purchased the newspaper from Brown and Weaver and March 14, 1904, published the first edition of The Ada News.
At that time, Ada did not have enough people or money to support a daily newspaper, but Weaver managed to keep the newspaper operating. When the paper first made its appearance, it was a four-page, five column sheet with the two inside pages ready-print.
“Our pay roll was $10 per week,” said Weaver in an article published Nov. 27, 1913. “And we had to hustle like smoke to meet this Saturday night ordeal.”
When the Frisco railroad arrived in Ada, only three and one-half years before The Ada News was established, the population of this country town was not more than 2,500. The land had not been allotted at that time and most of the whites occupying the land were tenants and too poor to be valuable patrons to any business in town.
In an editorial Dec. 23, 1907, Weaver admits that daily publication would have been suspended but for the revitalization of Ada due to the coming of the cement plant.
The paper finally increased its size to six columns with all four pages home print. In 1907, a linotype was purchased and the work of publishing a newspaper was simplified to some extent.
The News merged with the Democrat in 1910 and Byron Norrell became the managing editor of the newly formed News Publishing and Printing Company.
The Democrat had been purchased shortly before statehood by Byron Norrell, Miles Grigsby and A.B. Yeager. Yeager sold his interest to Norrell and Grigsby in 1913 or 1914 and W.D. Little Sr. joined the partnership. They sold out to Marvin Brown, one of the founders, in 1919.
Equipment at that time for the composing and press room consisted of a linotype machine, a press large enough to print two pages of the newspaper at one time, two or three handfed commercial presses, a fair lineup of handset type, a small proof press, a folding machine to fold the newspaper after it had been printed and type cases.
Today pages are composed on computers by the typesetting department and reporters, a negative image of the page burned on a silver plate and hung on an off-set press. Six days a week, there are three pressmen and one supervisor to print 10,200 daily papers.
The plant was first operated in the upper story of the Rollow building, moving from there to a frame building on South Broadway, afterwards to the rear of the Ada National Bank building and finally to its present location at 10th and Broadway.
Little purchased The Ada News from Brown in 1921. Norrell returned to the newspaper and continued as editor until his death in 1938. In an editorial, published not long after Norrell’s death, Little saluted Norrell as a good friend and excellent newspaper man.
The News remained in the Little family for the next 57 years. William D. “Bill” Little Jr. was born in 1921 and literally grew up in the newspaper business. George Gurley, who married Mary Little (William Little Sr.’s only daughter), joined the firm in 1951. Gurley was editor until his retirement in September 1980.
Publishers following Little include Ken McElroy, Richard Wells, Ron Vodenichar, Mickey Thompson, Tom Bolitho, Roy Biondi, Teri McCleary and Loné Beasley
Editors after Gurley have been Mickey Thompson, Steve Knickmeyer, Tony Pippen, Mike Slizewski, Joe Claxton, Steve Boggs, Brenda Tollett, Roy Deering and Talina Eaker.
Several staff members have moved on to become well known in other areas of the media. J. Don Cook was staff photographer for several years and was later a photographer with the Daily Oklahoman. J. Hugh Biles was employed by the News for many years. His book, “Early History of Ada,” accurately documents the history of Ada. Roy McKeown was also a longtime member of the News staff. He wrote a similar book, “Cabin in the Blackjacks.”
Paul Hughes, a former staff member, wrote several novels, one of which was a best seller. His first novel, “Retreat From Rostov,” was written while he was on the News staff.
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Steed was once employed by the News. He began in the composing and press room and was later a writer.
The Ada News has been located at the same location for nearly 75 years. It was destroyed by fire in February 1959, leaving only the brick front and south walls standing. A new building was erected on the same site, utilizing the two remaining walls as a vital part of the structure.
From the beginning, the News has relied on young entrepreneurs to distribute the daily paper. A few more well-known carriers have included Oral Roberts and Jeff Thompson. Roberts became a minister and established the City of Faith hospital in Tulsa. When Thompson graduated from high school, he turned his newspaper route over to his younger brother, Ryan. Thompson had formed a computer business which became a multi-million dollar business within a couple of years.
Throughout the years, the News has reported newsmaking events in the Ada area. Some stories met with approval of the general public and others stirred up anger. Whatever the case, the News has endured for 106 years.