Newspaper publisher is deacon at his church
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Nov 19, 2013 | 1606 views |  0 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Karen Alred, Rev. Bob Staggs and John Alred. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
From left, Karen Alred, Rev. Bob Staggs and John Alred. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
After John Thomas Samuel Alred, 63, graduated from Jacksonville State University with a bachelor’s in arts and a minor in economics and political science, he had every intention of going back as soon as he could to get his master’s.

He knew he’d need to work awhile though.

“I came from the poor side of town, so I didn’t have money to go back to school right away, so I came out and worked at a couple of jobs,” said Alred.

Alred had a friend who was a typesetter at The Gadsden Times who told him that the paper had a job opening for a proof reader. Alred applied and got the job.

“A proof reader is what they call a spell checker today,” he said. “We read all the copy that everyone wrote and made sure there were no spelling mistakes or mistakes in grammar,” he said. “It was a hard job because you just read all day. But the good thing about it is you knew what was happening in the world by the end of the day.”

Paul Meloun, the executive editor at the Times, was known for giving his employees a chance to do other jobs. Alred went to him and told him that he’d like to write a story. The editor obliged him.

Alred’s first story appeared in September during football season. He asked women on Broad Street in Gadsden what they would be doing while their husbands watched football.

“It turned out pretty good,” said Alred. “My mother saved it. I go back and look at it today and I laugh. It peeked my interest in journalism though, and then I started doing more and more stories.”

Alred became a feature writer and, for a while, was the courthouse reporter and then went to the desk as an editor. He’d always had a love for sports, so he began covering sports events and writing the stories.

After 25 years of doing that though, he had become burned out.

“I didn’t want to cover any more sports,” he said. “The last five years I was in sports, I elected to be the inside guy. I would stay at home and lay out the paper and let the younger guys cover Alabama, Auburn and Jax State.”

His next job was back to the desk as editor.

“This was just when newspapers were starting out very crudely on the Internet and I had a little knowledge of computers,” said Alred. “I’m very proud to say that I put the first web pages for The Gadsden Times on the Internet.”

The publisher felt that Alred might be a good candidate to be head of the creative department.

“I was in charge of the artists who built the ads. I made sure the ads were built, that they were correct when the advertiser looked at them and that they were correct when they were published,” said Alred. “Everybody saidI went to the dark side because I left news for advertising. What it did was give me insight into all sides of the newspaper. The non-money side (news) and the money-making side (advertising).”

He stayed in advertising until he had a heart attack and had to have triple bypass surgery in 2005. After recuperating, he knew he wanted to stay in the newspaper business, but he wanted to get out of the grind of daily newspapers.

At that time Jimmy Creed was managing editor of The Jacksonville News. Alred and Creed were longtime friends.

One night in 2006, he called Creed and told him what he’d been thinking and, as luck would have it, Creed told him there was an opening for a writer at the News. Creed practically hired Alred on the phone that night.

“I retired from The Gadsden Times,” said Alred. “I’d had enough service in. I could retire and draw a pension from them.”

About a year later, Creed left the paper, and he recommended Alred for his job. After Alred had been at the News a year, with over 32 years of newspaper experience behind him, he went from being a reporter to being managing editor of the paper.

Alred is now publisher of The Jacksonville News, The Piedmont Journal and The Cleburne (Heflin) News.

“I love being the publisher of these three wonderful newspapers,” he said. “There are hard times and there are good times, but the good times outweigh the bad times. With newspapers, we’ve had to cut back, and we’ve had to downsize. Because of the economy, sometimes it’s hard to do, but we’ve managed to keep our heads above the water.”

Alred said that in his opinion, weekly newspapers can do more than dailies because weeklies can give everyone recognition that they probably otherwise wouldn’t get.

“Anita Kilgore and I have been together since I came to Consolidated Publishing,” said Alred. “I think we make a great team. Now, we’re happy to have Margaret Anderson back with us.”

Alred was born in Gadsden and graduated from Emma Sansom High School in 1968. He was the only child of the late Thomas and Essie (McClung) Alred.

“I envied all my friends who had brothers and sisters, and they envied me because I was an only child,” said Alred. “I knew at Christmas that all the toys under the tree belonged to me. I really don’t know if it affected me or not, but I have some great cousins that I grew up with and we’re still close today.”

Alred and his wife, the former Karen Bonds, have been married 18 years. They met on a blind date arranged by his cousin. Karen works at Young Oil Company in Piedmont.

Alred has been a member of Roberts Chapel Baptist Church for the past 10 years.

“The pastor came to me and told me that he and another deacon had talked and they felt that I was a good candidate to be a deacon,” said Alred. “I told him I’d pray about it.”

Alred did pray about it and two weeks ago he was ordained as a deacon at Roberts Chapel.

“I think this is the way God wants me to go,” he said. “I think it’s a step in my spiritual growth. I want to work for my church and help spread the Word.”

Alred enjoys coin collecting and golf, although being publisher of three newspapers leaves him little time for either these days.

He’s a member of the Jacksonville Exchange Club.

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life right now,” said Alred. “I’m married to the woman I love, I love working for the Lord, I love this area and I love the three newspapers I publish. I wouldn’t think about moving away from this area. This area is beautiful.”

Alred said many wonder why he has three given names. First of all, he said, he wasn’t supposed to be a boy. He shocked everyone when he was the first boy born on his mother’s side of the family in a long time. There had been 11 girls born before him.

“So, my mother was fully expecting a girl,” he said. “In fact, I was supposed to be named Constance Rebecca.”

Alred said his parents were in such shock that they didn’t name him for about three days. He was just Baby Alred. The nurse finally told his mother they had to give him a name. So they named him John after his father and then added the names of both his grandfathers.

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Newspaper publisher is deacon at his church by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star

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