George Fort Milton Jr.
Champion of Public Power

HISTORY IS INHERENTLY FORGETFUL

There are a few individuals who deserve to be remembered for their accomplishments benefiting the public good – even at the cost of their own personal loss.

George Fort Milton Jr. was one such individual.

Milton was a prolific writer and editor of the Chattanooga News between 1924 and 1939.

Throughout the late 1920s and the early 1930s he was concerned with such issues as the low wages of workers, prohibition, and lynching; but the greatest campaign of his career was that in support of public power in Chattanooga. His position was that the future growth of Chattanooga depended on the acquisition of cheaper power, noting industry would move to areas where lower power rates were available.

Milton attempted to improve the daily lives and conditions of the masses of the South at the risk of clashing head-on with the monied classes, who preferred much slower social change, if any at all. 1

"Its crusade for public power in Chattanooga, the last major fight waged by the News , was what probably spelled its doom."
The Death of a Newspaper - George W. McGill The Nation Jan 22, 1940
READ: The Death of a Newspaper

A FORGOTTEN STORY WITH AN UNHAPPY ENDING

His support for public power led to advertising boycotts politically tied to private power interests. In a series of events and actions suitable for a movie script, Milton lost his newspaper his step-mother Abby Crawford Milton, and her three children controlling the majority of the bonds and preferred stock, acted on a technicality of bond obligation and due dates; allowing them to foreclose on the paper. Despite heroic sacrifice and fundraising by George Fort Milton and his employees, attempts to make payments were rejected as they had already agreed to sell the paper to Roy McDonald of rival publisher of the Free-Press for $150,000.

McDonald then appropriated the News name to prevent Milton from using it, and the Free Press became the News-Free Press.

"On Saturday, December 16, 1939, the News published its last edition after fifty-two years of continuous publication as one of the most respected papers in the South.

At 3:23 P.M., Milton walked to the great Web press, quietly shaking hands with the workers in the various departments. When the pressmen gave the signal, Milton pushed the button to 'kill' the run at 19,000.

Milton took the last issue and walked silently away."
1  GEORGE FORT MILTON: THE FIGHT FOR TVA AND THE LOSS OF THE CHATTANOOGA "NEWS" George Arnold Miller

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Milton Collection at the Public Library

 

"In 1940, recognizing the value of Mr. Milton's library, E. Y. Chapin purchased a selection of books as a gift to the Chattanooga Public Library. This collection includes over 700 titles regarding the Civil War, Reconstruction, and travel in the United States."