Courier-Index (Marianna)

The Courier-Index, a newspaper based in Marianna (Lee County), is the oldest continuous business operation in Lee County. The newspaper was the result of the consolidation of two older newspapers, the Marianna Index and the Lee County Courier.

L. M. Benham published the first issue of the Marianna Index, the older of the two papers, on a Saturday in August 1874, using hand-set type and a hand-fed press. The debut issue stated, “We intend to have a paper that the people of our county will not be ashamed of, and that all, someday, may feel proud of it.” J. M. Thomas was the first editor. After only a few months of publication, Benham sold the paper to Hutton, Anderson & Co., and H. N. Hutton became the publisher. It was sold several more times through the years.

The Marianna Index covered a wide range of topics on a seven-column layout that included poetry, editorials, and general essays, as well as national news. Subscriptions to the paper were advertised at $2.50/year, and the general mission of the paper was to “defend the truth, support what is right…oppose all cliques, clan or leagues, or anything else that tends to corrupt the ballot box.” The city of Marianna faced many trials during the time of the Index‘s print run, including intermittent outbreaks of yellow fever and smallpox, as well as fires that gutted the city.

The Lee County Courier, founded in 1890 by Colonel James Wood, a farmer with an interest in politics, gave the area two newspapers for more than twenty-five years. Col. Wood and his nephew, T. E. Wood, edited the newspaper. Herbert M. Jackson purchased the Index and the Courier in 1917 and merged them into the Courier-Index two years later. Jackson published the newspaper until his death in 1934, when his wife, Cordie Jackson, became publisher. She continued to publish the paper until 1937, when she sold it to John B. Howse. Approximately two years later, she resumed ownership of the paper.

Roy H. Caldwell purchased a half interest in the Courier-Index in 1944. In 1949, Caldwell’s son, Marvin B. Caldwell, purchased the remaining half. Roy Caldwell died in 1957, at which time Marvin Caldwell became editor and publisher. When Marvin Caldwell died in 1983, his wife, Dorothy Caldwell, became the newspaper’s publisher.

In September 1985, the Caldwell family sold the newspaper and its office supply business to General Media, Inc., which at the time also owned the Jacksonville Daily News, the McCrory Leader, and the Augusta Advocate. F. D. “Doug” Oliver, executive vice president of General Media, was named publisher of the Courier-Index. Times-Herald Publishing in Forrest City (St. Francis County) purchased the Courier-Index in May 1986. In late 2016, Argent Arkansas News Media purchased the Times-Herald and the Courier-Index.

The Courier-Index is printed each Wednesday at the Times-Herald facility in Forrest City, but it has a business office at 31 S. Poplar Street in Marianna.

Notable writers who contributed to the Courier-Index include lawyer-turned-novelist Grif Stockley and former Arkansas Democrat managing editor Gene Herrington.

For additional information:
“About the Courier-Index (Marianna, Ark.) 1917–Current.” Chronicling America. Library of Congress. (accessed July 20, 2022).

“Argent Media Buys Two State Newspapers.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 2, 2016.

“General Media Purchases The Courier-Index.” Courier-Index, September 12, 1985, p. 1.

Meriwether, Robert, W. A Chronicle of Arkansas Newspapers Published since 1922 and the Arkansas Press Association, 1930–1972. Little Rock: Arkansas Press Association, 1974.

“Times-Herald Purchases Courier-Index.” Courier-Index, May 1, 1986, p. 1.

Stephen Caldwell
WordBuilders, Inc.

Staff of the Arkansas Digital Newspaper Project
Arkansas State Archives


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