Tribune-Courier News Editor
LOUISVILLE — A former owner of The Benton Tribune-Democrat died Nov. 11 in Louisville at the age of 89.
Bill Rayburn, a former printer and pressman at the Tribune-Democrat, recalled Samuel Rayburn Watkins as an intelligent and compassionate publisher.
“He had the highest values of anyone in the world and was an outstanding man,” Rayburn said of Watkins. “He was a nice guy and treated us well, and we thought an awful lot of him.”
According to a full obituary, Watkins enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942, and completed 27 hours at Tufts University in Boston to get his degree and join the Navy as an officer. He participated in several anti-submarine patrols and was the executive officer and commander aboard a number of vessels. He left the Navy in 1946 at the rank of lieutenant.
Justin Lamb, a Marshall County historian, said Watkins started work for The Tribune-Democrat in 1937 and worked as a writer until his departure for the service in 1942. He worked for his uncle Frank Chambers who was editor of the paper. Watkins owned the Tribune-Democrat from 1948 until 1955.
“He started as a writer and worked his way through the ranks until he bought the paper,” Lamb said. “He tripled circulation and increased advertising by 400 percent.”
The Marshall County Tribune-Democrat merged with The Marshall Courier to form The Marshall County Tribune-Courier. The first edition of this current newspaper was published Jan. 19, 1972.
After selling the paper, Lamb said Watkins went on be chief executive officer of Associated Industries of Kentucky. Before returning to Benton, he worked as a reporter at the Staten Island Advance and taught journalism at the University of Illinois.
Former Tribune-Courier reporter Bobbie Foust said she recalled Watkins.
“He didn’t own the Trib long, but we talked about it many times,” Foust said. “He always said he enjoyed owning the paper.”