The Leader, enterprise and press. (Fitzgerald, Ga.) 1915-1921
Place of Publication:
- Fitzgerald, Ben Hill county
Dates of publication:
- Ceased in Mar. 1921.
- Vol. 20, no. 141 (Nov. 24, 1915)-
- Ben Hill County (Ga.)--Newspapers.
- Fitzgerald (Ga.)--Newspapers.
- Georgia--Ben Hill County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01211756
- Also on microfilm: Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Libraries.
The Leader, enterprise and press. November 24, 1915
B. T. and J. G. Knapp published the first issue of the Fitzgerald Leader in January 1896, just one month after formal incorporation of the “Colony City.” Philander H. Fitzgerald, a Union army veteran and newspaper publisher in Indianapolis, envisioned a planned municipality in the South for fellow veterans. He ultimately selected Georgia’s wiregrass region to establish his namesake city. Like its older competitor, the Fitzgerald Enterprise, the Leader circulated an eight-page weekly and advocated for publicly owned utilities and women’s right to vote. Politically, the Leader expressly supported the Democratic Party, contrasting with the Enterprise’s non-partisan approach. By Spring 1897, the Leader served as Irwin County’s paper of record, but legal advertising rights frequently changed between the county’s two newspapers.
Due to failing eyesight, B. T. Knapp sold the Leader in November 1898 to R. S. and A. M. Burton, who managed the paper until August 1899 when C. B. and O. D. Lee of the Colony Citizen purchased the publication. They merged the papers as the Citizen-Leader, a title that again changed when Earnest W. Ryman acquired ownership in 1901 and retitled it the Irwin County Citizen. Besides Ryman’s preference for Clarke Howell in Georgia’s 1906 gubernatorial elections, the politics of the Enterprise and Citizen were nearly indistinguishable. The two papers fell in line with Southern “reform Democrats” of the early 1900s, which called for improved schools and child labor laws, but also included support for segregation and disenfranchisement of Black voters. When Fitzgerald failed to become the seat of Irwin County in 1906, the Citizen joined the Enterprise in a successful campaign to form Ben Hill County. In March 1907, E. M. Henderson took over editorial management, but legal troubles and debt forced the paper, now titled the Fitzgerald Journal, to suspend publication by November. J. H. Harris, however, revived the sheet as the Fitzgerald Leader in February 1908, but the paper continued to see frequent editorial turnover.
When Isidor Gelders, a founding member of Fitzgerald, purchased the Fitzgerald Leader in 1911, he ended years of instability for the publication. Under Gelders’ stewardship, the Leader became Ben Hill County’s paper of record, and surpassed the Enterprise in circulation. On April 16, 1912, Isidor Gelders announced the purchase and absorption of the Fitzgerald Enterprise, thus creating the Leader-Enterprise. The Leader-Enterprise, after absorbing the Fitzgerald Press in November 1915 and undergoing several minor title changes, became the Fitzgerald Leader Enterprise and Press, a masthead which existed until 1964.
Gelders advocated for consolidation of rural schools, higher teacher salaries, and free tuition for students; and, as a leader in Fitzgerald’s Jewish community, he published news relevant to their concerns. With his wife Maud Gelders as co-editor, they encouraged improved roads during the “Dixie Highway” movement of the 1910s and published information for combating the boll weevil in the 1920s.
Even after transferring ownership of the paper to their son in 1950, the senior Gelders continued to contribute editorials, including a series telling the history of Fitzgerald, Georgia, and Ben Hill County. Albert Gelders managed the paper until September 1964, when he sold the publication to the Fitzgerald Herald, which merged the titles into the Fitzgerald Herald and Fitzgerald Leader. Managed by the Pryor family, another name with a long history in Fitzgerald, the paper continues to circulate today as the Herald-Leader.