Futha Cone Magie (1924–2006)
Futha Cone Magie helped pioneer community journalism in Arkansas during a period when most newspapers were family owned. He also furthered the interest of tourism in the state through his service on the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commission.
Cone Magie was born on October 12, 1924, in England (Lonoke County) to Albert Hugh Magie and Rose Beauchamp Magie. His father was an army barber in World War I, and both his parents operated a grocery store on Main Street in England as well as farmed. He was the third of five sons.
Magie’s newspaper career began at age eight as a carrier for the Arkansas Gazette. He also milked cows and delivered bread to earn money. Magie was editor of the England High School newspaper, the Lion, and swept floors at the England Democrat. He graduated from high school in 1942.
Magie served as a yeoman aboard the USS Pocomoke in the U.S. Navy during World War II and fondly recounted that he had typed military orders for Charles A. Lindbergh while in the South Pacific. On February 4, 1945, Magie married Elizabeth Anne (Betty) Rice of Lonoke (Lonoke County), whom he met at a traveling skating rink. The couple had three children.
Following the war, Magie used his GI Bill education benefits to study under Walter Lemke, founder of the journalism department at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). While a student, he worked as a reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Times and the college newspaper, the Arkansas Traveler.
After graduating with a marketing degree in 1949, he went to work for the Madison County Record in Huntsville (Madison County), published by Orval Faubus, who later became governor. After a short while, he took a job publishing magazines for the Arkansas Farm Bureau, then the Iowa Farm Bureau, followed by the American Farm Bureau in Washington DC, before moving to Cabot (Lonoke County) in 1955, where he lived until his death.
Cone and his wife founded the Cabot Star in 1955. It took both their efforts to write stories, sell advertising and subscriptions, and produce the weekly. Within four months, they purchased a competing newspaper, the Cabot Herald, and merged the two into the Cabot Star-Herald. In 1962, the Magies purchased the Lonoke Democrat, founded in 1871 as the Prairie County Democrat in DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) before Lonoke County was established. The next year, with Joe Chester Harris, the Magies purchased the Carlisle Independent. The Magies later purchased Harris’s ownership in the newspaper. In 1992, they added the Sherwood Voice and the Jacksonville Patriot (formerly the Daily News) to their family operation.
The Magies’ children—Shelly, Connie, and Mark, along with daughter-in-law Susie—worked in the family business at times during their fifty years of ownership. Magie served as president of the Arkansas Press Association in 1967, as did his wife in 1988 and son in 1999. Magie Enterprises, Inc., remained family owned until Stephens Media Group purchased the company in 2006.
Magie used his newspapers in a positive way to inspire change. Through his written words, he was instrumental in convincing the city of Lonoke to close a landfill, which made space for a National Guard armory and a UA Cooperative Extension Service facility. Following a 1976 tornado that devastated Cabot, he encouraged residents by coining the phrase “Cabot, Coming Back Strong,” which he printed in large letters on an aluminum sheet used on the printing press and strategically posted in the downtown rubble.
He worked with state representative William F. (Bill) Foster and local leaders to guide highway officials to extend state Highway 321 to join Highway 5. Magie loved his home state and considered it an honor when, in 1975, he was appointed by Governor David Pryor to the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commission. He served as a commissioner for seventeen years. While chairman of the commission, a one-eighth-cent sales tax was approved by Arkansas voters to provide money for state park improvements.
The Magies worked side by side in their newspaper business. In 1991, they were named Arkansas Journalists of the Year by the Department of Journalism at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), and in 1998, they received the Ernie Deane Award presented to journalists whose work best exemplifies the namesake’s spirit—courage, fairness, accuracy, clarity, honesty, completeness, and timeliness. In 2002, they were presented the Arkansas Press Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2005, the Magies were inducted into the Lemke Journalism Alumni Society Hall of Honor at UA. Magie and his wife also spent a night in the White House at the invitation of President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton.
Magie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1999 and participated in several studies at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock concerning the disease. He died on March 27, 2006, of pneumonia and is buried at Concord Cemetery in Furlow (Lonoke County).
For additional information:
Meriwether, Robert W. A Chronicle of Arkansas Newspapers Published since 1922 and of the Arkansas Press Association, 1930–1972. Little Rock: Arkansas Press Association, 1974.
“Newspaper Founder Dies at 81.” Cabot Star-Herald. March 29, 2006, p. 1A.
Mark L. Magie
Last Updated: 09/14/2022