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Home IS where the heart is ... Dave McCoy’s belonged in Anderson County

Friends, family to remember iconic newspaperman July 21

It has been said we write our own obituaries by the way we live our lives.

If that’s true, Dave McCoy wrote a beautiful account of his life.

McCoy passed away June 22, 2017, at the age of 82.

From 1988-1994, he served as publisher of The Courier News (then called the Clinton Courier-News). Prior to his stop in Clinton, McCoy worked at the Oak Ridger for 35 years, spending most of that time as advertising director.

In December 1987, then owner/publisher/editor Horace Wells announced that he was selling The Clinton Courier-News to John M. Jones, owner of the Greeneville Sun and several other newspapers — part of the Jones Media Group.

The sale became effective Jan. 1, 1988. With the sale, Wells took the role of editor emeritus and welcomed McCoy, the new publisher.

In his popular column, Wells described McCoy as “A local man who has many friends in the community.” He added, “I look forward to working with him.”

Upon taking the reins of leadership, McCoy was quick to allay any concerns readers might have had after Wells stepped aside after 60 years.

“This will remain Clinton’s newspaper. I want to maintain the fine reputation of this newspaper,” he said.

An eyewitness to the transition from Wells to McCoy was Darrell Richardson — then a reporter for The Clinton Courier-News — now managing editor and publisher of The Oak Ridger.

“It was a pretty seamless transition. Horace and Dave were of the same mindset as far as what community journalism and community newspapers should be about — trying to get out and get as many names as you could in the paper, trying to recognize the big things and the little things going on in the community, giving both of those great weight because that’s what people wanted to know about. It was all about staying local. They were both peacemakers. They wanted to bring people together. Horace and Dave had a symbiotic relationship.” Richardson said.

Richardosn posted on his Facebook page on June 26 that “all those who wish to honor David McCoy are invited to gather with his family on Friday, July 21, from 4 to 6 p.m., in the Social Room of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church.”

Richardson recalled a hotly contested election where he and McCoy worked all night keeping a running tally of vote totals on a board in the loading dock area at The Courier News.

It was a tradition started by Wells years before, Richardson said.

“We made an all-nighter of it and had our paper printed. Then we stayed and Dave and I handed out the paper the next morning on the street corners around the courthouse. That was a memory Dave referred to quite a bit,” he said.

Richardson said McCoy was instrumental in converting The Courier News from a weekly paper into a twice-weekly paper, a status it maintained until 2010 when it reverted back to a weekly paper.

“I think it just goes to show how much the community supported the efforts of not only what Horace Wells did but also his handing that baton to someone of Dave McCoy’s caliber,” Richardson said.

“Dave was a man of the people. He was really no respector of persons in that anybody who came in and wanted to have a voice in the newspaper, had it, no matter what their income or social status,” he added.

His tenure in Clinton was remembered fondly by several of his former co-workers.

Former sports editor Dan McWilliams noted that he started as sports editor just two days after graduating from the University of Tennessee.

“Dave was a great publisher to work for, especially for someone like me, fresh out of school. He was very encouraging and was one of the nicest men I’ve ever known. Dave had a great sense of humor. I can still hear his laugh,” McWilliams said.

Toni Ferguson was an advertising executive with The Courier News when McCoy took over as publisher. She remembers McCoy as a steady hand at the helm.

“He was a great guy ... Just real pleasant to work with,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said during her tenure at The Courier News the newpaper’s building was undergoing an interior remodeling.

“There were files and papers stacked everywhere,” she laughed. “You felt like you were going through a tunnel, or a maze, sometimes.

“And Dave was right there, giving us encouragement, letting us know that those stacks of papers weren’t going to be around for long,” she said.

Ferguson worked with both Horace Wells and McCoy. “They both loved that paper,” she said. “And when Dave took over it was as smooth as a transition as you’d ever seen. Both were such gentlemen.”

“Dave loved The Courier and I was very disappointed when he left,” said Fred Strohl, former managing editor of The Courier News. “It was never the same after he left. It [the newspaper] was a family-like atmosphere under Dave. He was a really good guy.” Strohl first met McCoy when he came to The Oak Ridger as sports editor in 1982. In 1993, Strohl left The Oak Ridger and was hired as managing editor of The Courier News by McCoy.

“Dave was very community-oriented. He served on all kinds of boards and if he said he was going to do something, he did it. He was always seeking to bridge that gap between the county and the city. He was one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. Dave was top of the line,” Strohl said.

Strohl and Richardson both recalled how McCoy would edit the “Sound-Off” column the newspaper did in those days. A precursor to social media, “Sound Off” allowed people in the community to call the paper and record an opinion on essentially any topic.

“Dave diligently checked that line and made sure nothing ever got in the paper that was slanderous toward anyone,” Richardson said.

He remembered when McCoy announced he was leaving The Courier News.

“He got very emotional. He really wanted to retire from The Courier,” Strohl said but the stress of dealing with corporate ownership just became too much to handle.

McCoy returned to The Oak Ridger as advertising and public relations director upon his resignation as publisher of The Courier News on Jan. 1, 1994.

He later started the “Senior Living” publication which covered more than a dozen East Tennessee counties, and he served as the Director of Development for Methodist Medical Center Foundation for many years.

Just before he left The Courier News, McCoy penned a farewell column.

“Six years is such a short time, I used it wisely. There’s no question about that,” McCoy wrote. “Home IS where the heart is. My heart is in Anderson County. Am I not the lucky one to be able to pursue my dreams of a new challenge and not have to leave home?”