Wednesday, March 29, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Journalist put down deep roots

Cone Magie, who passed away Monday at the age of 81, was one of those newspaper publishers who are so closely identified with their communities that it’s hard to imagine one without the other.

Magie, who published the Cabot Star-Herald for half a century with his wife Betty, helped shepherd that community’s dramatic growth.

They thrived and prospered, but what most people don’t realize, except maybe for the old-timers, is that Cone, like many of the town’s residents, wasn’t originally from Cabot.

He was born toward the other end of Lonoke County, down in England, and moved around several places before he found his life-long calling, when he and his wife started the Cabot Star in competition with the Cabot Herald.

J.M. Park, the longtime Cabot banker, recalled Tuesday that many residents were unhappy with the Herald, which was closely allied with the town’s longtime mayor.

“We had our political wars in Cabot,” Park said. “The mayor was in office for a long time. He was a little bit dictatorial. People felt the paper leaned a little too much toward the mayor.”

The Star helped usher in a new era in Cabot, and the Magies soon bought out the Herald.
“They were two of the hardest-working people I’ve ever encountered in Cabot,” Park said. “They were community-spirited. I hold them in very high esteem. I admire what they have accomplished.”

Cone quickly became an insider and, really, Mr. Cabot: He was the eyes and ears of the community, and no smart politician would run for office without first consulting him.

Cone knew them all, including Rep. Bill Foster, the Sage of England. The two helped convince the Highway Department to build Hwy. 321, which is named after Foster.

Cone was a lifelong Demo-crat, active in politics (he served on the state Parks and Tourism Commission) and supported Bill Clinton, which made him an FOB (Friend of Bill).

Only two Arkansas publishers are listed as having slept over at the White House during the Clinton years (although others may have slept there who are not on the official list): Betty and Cone Magie and Charlotte and Melvin Schexnayder of Dumas, old-school newspaper people who felt comfortable mixing socially with the people they wrote about.

During Clinton’s second inaugural, Cone paid me a backhanded compliment when I introduced him to my daughter Rebecca.
“How does someone as ugly as you have a beautiful daughter like her?” he asked.
“Thanks, Cone,” I mumbled.

Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home on Second Street is in charge of the funeral. Visitation is from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. The funeral is at 1 p.m. Thursday at First United Methodist Church in Cabot followed by interment at Concord Cemetery in Furlow.