Daily Citizen (Searcy)

The Daily Citizen is a newspaper serving Searcy (White County) and the greater White County area. The paper traces its origins to 1854, when it was first printed as the Des Arc Citizen, and it claims to be the oldest county newspaper in Arkansas.

John J. Morrill originally founded the paper, which began weekly publication on September 5, 1854, in Des Arc (Prairie County). Morrill’s Des Arc Citizen held fiercely Democratic leanings and gave a voice to the anti-abolitionist views held by most Prairie County Democrats just before the Civil War. Citizen opinions showed deep concern about potential Republican electoral success, warning that creeping Northern encroachment into the issue of slavery would only end in secession from the Union, if necessary. The paper continued publication after the war broke out, but its outspoken Democratic sympathies easily attracted the wrath of passing Union forces, who destroyed the Citizen’s printing facilities in 1862. Publication resumed under J. H. Balding in 1866.

Ownership of the paper changed several times until its 1885 purchase by James J. Baugh, who moved its operations to Searcy in 1889. Baugh renamed his paper the White County Citizen and established its new home just west of the White County Courthouse at 209 West Arch Street. The paper also distinguished itself as one of the first small-town daily publications in Arkansas, with its first issue of the Daily Citizen being published on April 1, 1890.

Baugh went on to merge three other papers with his own—the Searcy Morning Call, the Arkansas Beacon, and the Searcy Times—leaving the Citizen as White County’s primary news source. Occasionally, sharply divided opinions on public issues caused the Citizen to experience its share of intimidation, including broken windows, death threats, and one instance in the 1930s in which Baugh was threatened with a horsewhipping. In reply, Baugh published his intended whereabouts on a given day so the threat could be carried out publicly, but no whipping took place. Baugh also once served as president of the Arkansas Press Association. He enjoyed a prosperous career as publisher and editor of the Citizen until his death in 1940, when ownership of the paper passed to his son-in-law, Mark Perrin (M. P.) Jones Jr.

Control of the paper remained with the Jones family until its sale to Harte-Hanks Communications in 1977. M. P. Jones served as publisher and editor until 1959, when he was succeeded by his sons, Perrin Jones and Jim Baugh Jones. Perrin followed his father as publisher and editor until 1977 and continued as editor until his retirement in 1985. Jim Baugh Jones served as business manager of the Citizen until the sale to Harte-Hanks, when he briefly took over as publisher until 1978. Harte-Hanks later sold its ownership in the Daily Citizen to Worrell Enterprises, which, in turn, sold it to Paxton Media Group in 1991.

After almost ninety years at the Arch Street location, the paper outgrew its original space and has since moved twice: to 3000 East Race Street in 1975, and to 723 West Beebe-Capps Expressway in 2014.

The Daily Citizen has won numerous state and national awards in the Smaller Daily Newspapers category, including three General Excellence awards from the Arkansas Press Association, as well as Sweepstakes and General Excellence awards from the Associated Press Media Editors (APME). The Daily Citizen is printed every day except Saturdays and Mondays, and it has featured a Sunday edition since 1977. Subscriptions are available in both print and electronic format.

For additional information:
The Daily Citizen. http://www.thedailycitizen.com/ (accessed August 25, 2016).

Jones, Perrin. “History of The Citizen.” White County Heritage 24 (1986): 68–69.

Scroggs, Jack B. “Arkansas in the Secession Crisis.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 12 (Autumn 1953): 179–224.

Adam Miller
Austin, Texas

Last Updated: 08/31/2016

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