In 1991, Lee, George and David Grimes, the surviving sons of George and Eva Grimes, established the George and Eva Grimes Memorial Trust Fund in memory of their parents, who were newspaper people. The purpose of the fund is to award $1,000 scholarships to outstanding students in the University of Nebraska's school of Journalism and Mass Communications. There are no restrictions on how the students spend the money, but travel abroad is encouraged. George and Eva believed well-rounded members of their profession should be knowledgeable of international as well as national and local affairs. A sketch of their professional lives follows.
George Grimes was born in Omaha in 1894. Eva Miller Grimes was born in Fremont in 1896. They entered the university of Nebraska in 1914. In order to pay for his college education, George taught school on the Rosebud Indian reservation in South Dakota from 1912 to 1914. The school was located in the small town of Berkley, which no longer exists. Seven boys and girls were enrolled in the school in the first year; twenty-two in the second year when a second teacher was hired. A few Indian children came to school, but most were the sons and daughters of the ranchers.
George stated that the purpose of the school was to make good citizens of the boys and girls. He explained that good citizenship implied respect for authority, obedience to the law, and regard for the feelings and rights of ones' neighbors. With these lofty goals in mind, George developed a curriculum for every grade through high school. He taught all of the classes, which included English, Latin, algebra, geography, history, civics, economics, and physical education. George endeavored to teach the children how to make the most of their lives through intellectual pursuits, reading good books, appreciating music and art, and participating in society. George left Berkley and returned to Omaha on 2 June 1914. In the fall, he entered the University of Nebraska. He was 20 years old.
Eva was the first female editor-in-chief of the Daily Nebraskan in 1916-17. George succeeded her in 1917. At the University, Eva was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, the senior honor society Black Masque, and the order of the Golden Fleece, which she help organize for red-headed coeds. Eva was active in the suffrage movement while at the University and afterwards.
The United States declared war on Germany on April 6 1917 following hostile acts against the United States and the sinking of American ships on the high seas. Before beginning his senior year, George volunteered for the U.S. Army. He was sent to Officers Training School at Camp Custer, Michigan in August 1917, where he received a Second Lieutenant's commission. George and Eva were married on 6 July 1918 in Fremont.
George was sent to France with Company K of the 95th Infantry Division in August 1918. He was assigned to the Inter-Allied Tank Center at Recloses and became an instructor in the operation of tanks.
After the war ended, the United States established the American University at Beaune. George was transferred to the University to teach journalism under the direction of Colonel Milton Moore Fogg, who had been head of the journalism course at the University of Nebraska. George helped to develop courses on newspaper writing, newspaper editing, agricultural journalism, the special article, the editorial, advertising copy, and the short story. He began teaching, but the Army ordered him back to the United States at the end of March 1919. While on the troop transport, the Leviathan, he edited the ship's daily newspaper, the Leviathan Press.
During the war Senator Gilbert Hitchcock, publisher of the Omaha World Herald, had hired Eva as a reporter. After George was discharged from the Army, he and Eva moved to Fremont where George worked briefly for the Fremont Tribune. In 1920, George and Eva bought the Platte Valley News in Scottsbluff. The paper's revenue was insufficient to pay its expenses, so George and Eva moved to Omaha in 1923. In that year, Senator Hitchcock hired George as a reporter.
In 1932, Senator Hitchcock sent George to Chicago to cover the Democratic National Convention, which nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt. After George's return, Senator Hitchcock assigned him to the editorial department where he shared an office with Harvey Newbranch, the editor, a graduate of the University of Nebraska who had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1920 for his editorial The Law and the Jungle.
In the 1930's, Eva wrote an advice column, Mother Knows Best, for the World Herald. Subscribers all over Nebraska and Western Iowa wrote in for advice about raising children. Eva had four sons and was well qualified to answer the mothers' questions.
Senator Hitchcock died in 1934 and was succeeded as publisher by his son-in-law, Henry Doorly. Mr. Doorly promoted George to managing editor of the World Herald in 1939. After the United States entered the Second World War in December 1941, the nation began a massive campaign to collect scrap metal to build weapons, and kitchen grease to convert into glycerin and explosives. Mr. Doorly put George in charge of the scrap drive in Nebraska. Governor Dwight Griswold asked Eva to organize the women of the state for the scrap drive. She accomplished this by enlisting the women's organizations in the state. In recognition of the hugely successful campaign in Nebraska, the Pulitzer Prize for public service was awarded to the Omaha World Herald in 1942.
In 1943, George resigned as managing editor. The Wall Street Journal asked him to replace its managing editor, who was scheduled to be inducted into the service. George and Eva moved to Bronxville, New York, a suburb of New York City. Before she left Omaha, Eva sent a letter to the women who were the Nebraska County Chairmen of the salvage campaign. It included this message:
I will hate to leave this state of mine and my friends in it. From the soft colored sand hills, across the whole sweep of the state, to the bluffs that border the sluggish, misty Missouri, there is a beauty that becomes a part of the lives of us Nebraskans. I shall miss the people here, too - they are so honest and decent and friendly. That is what makes Nebraska the great state it is - and it IS a great state - as are also the people who live in it. You County Chairmen, have taken on a big job for the duration of this war. You are giving your strength and your sincerity to help the country you love and the Nebraska boys who are in the service.
The managing editor of the Wall Street Journal did report for induction but was rejected for physical reasons. The Wall Street Journal sent George to Chicago to manage the Chicago edition of the paper.
In 1945, George and Eva and an associate at the Omaha World Herald, purchased the Press-Courier, a small daily newspaper in Oxnard, California. It was printed on an eight-page flatbed press for a paid circulation of 1,400. Within a year George and Eva bought out their partner and incorporated. Eva became president and George was publisher and editor. Lee Grimes, who had studied at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and had worked for the World Herald, became managing editor. Thomas Grimes, who had worked for an advertising agency in Omaha, became Director of Advertising. In the summer of 1947, the Press-Courier hired sons George and David, both college students, as reporters.
Under the family's management, the Oxnard Press-Courier became a successful, profitable newspaper. The California Newspaper Association awarded it many prizes for presenting the news, editorial writing, public service, and special editions.
In 1953, George and Eva began traveling extensively. Usually, they traveled with the International Press Institute, which arranged meetings with world leaders. After each day's meetings and events, George and Eva returned to their hotel room to write about their experiences and impressions. They telegraphed their stories to Lee in Oxnard, who printed them in the next day's edition of the Press-Courier under the heading, "Report From Far Away." With their on-the-spot reporting, George and Eva kept their subscribers informed of foreign places, people, and events. George and Eva believed strongly in the value of travel to increase the knowledge and perspective of journalists.
In December 1961, George was selected as the 16th distinguished lecturer for the Eric Allen Memorial Fund at the 43rd annual Oregon Press Conference in Eugene. Eric Allen was the former dean of the University of Oregon School of Journalism. George chose as his topic, "Small Fry," the importance of the small, independent community newspapers. With nearly fifty years of experience as a newspaperman, he discussed the mission, the responsibilities, and the rewards of his profession. In his lecture, he warned against the consolidation of newspaper ownership, contrasting chain papers with the locally owned community newspapers. He said,
We are all aware of the invasion of the newspaper field by men of money. To me, this can only mean, as it continues, a quickening erosion of the prestige and influence of the press as a whole. My prayer is that the small town press will somehow escape what I gravely fear is a blight. Chains, group newspapers could handicap and cripple one of the brightest developments in newspapering. That has been the rise in respect, influence, reader acceptance and power of the small town daily and weekly, the community paper.
In a single ownership of a paper in a single town, the editor is responsible to his conscience, to his readers, to his community. No man is his master. In the chain, despite all protestations of local independence, the editor is answerable to the overall boss in a suite of offices someplace else.
Is it not better that your community editor-publisher, in every town, be the one who has to wrestle with his own business puzzles, meet his fellow citizens as one of them, gather his news from his neighbors, sit down with them in friendship to work out local problems? Is it not better for him and his paper to grow in trust and understanding with his own people, seeking no rewards except their respect, deserving only the recompense his merits earn?
The community newspaper can and ought to be a constant prod to the community to become a more satisfying place to live. More beautiful, if you please. It can help the town enjoy good music, good painting, good sculpture, good theater and ballet. This at times calls for painful honesty, because it will be necessary to step on some frauds. The small daily can be the decisive force for bringing about needy developments in the town. It can get rid of bad officials and get in good ones. Above all, the small town daily must be honest, thorough and objective in reporting the news.
That is our mission, and what a good time we can have, and how our readers will welcome and enjoy it. It is our reason for being, and no mass circulation paper can do the job we can do. We of the small fry.
In 1962 George became ill with cancer. George and Eva decided to sell the Press-Courier. By then, the paper was printed on a 64-page color press, and circulation was approaching 18,000. It was bought by the Brush-Moore chain in Canton, Ohio.
George Grimes died in 1964 at the age of 69. Eva returned to Omaha where she died in 1991 at the age of 95. Brush-Moore sold its papers to Roy Thompson, the British newspaper magnate. The Oxnard Press-Courier, therefore, became part of the conglomerate that included the London Times. On one of her last trips to England, Eva Grimes visited Lord Thompson at the London Times building. In the 1980's the Press-Courier ceased publication.
George and Eva Grimes had an extraordinary, exciting, and rewarding life together in the newspaper business. Wherever they lived, they contributed significantly to a better community. They combined their professional careers with an equally satisfying family of four sons, four daughters-in-law, and thirteen grandchildren.
Bratton, Anna Jo