Of all the people who have assisted in preparation of this history of Fairmont, none was more influential than Billy Whitted. He was born March 29, 1919 in the Talladega Springs area of Cumberland County. Educated in the county schools, he served in the U. S. Navy during World War II as a radio operator. After returning home, he married Jane Broadhurst in December, 1945.
Billy came to Fairmont as editor of The Times-Messenger in mid-1948. He purchased the paper in May, 1951. He and Jane operated it until her death in December, 1966, and Billy continued operating it until selling to Herald Publishing Company of Dillon, SC on April 1, 1977. He also operated The Book Trader, first in conjunction with the paper and afterward as a separate entity until moving from Fairmont.
Photo credit: Pat Floyd, used with permission
Billy was a unique individual who made friends easily and was liked by everyone who met him. He was active in covering the news of Fairmont at all hours of the day or night. In short, he was what a newspaperman was supposed to be. Additionally, he was not afraid to editorially challenge the powers that be whether national, state or local. In one editorial, he lampooned the feds when they were busily spending money, asking for a submarine base to be built in Ashpole Swamp because the government didn't seem to have a big enough hole to throw their money in. In another, he harpooned the KKK when it was trying for a last ditch comeback in the area, lampooning their abilities to get the dome lights in their cars to work.
When he blasted the local Christian Action League for trying to intimidate candidates into making their vote in the liquor store referendum publicly known, he drew criticism from local pastors and church leaders, which he proceeded to publish with a reply of his own. There were three pages of published letters, plus the news story in just one issue of the Times-Messenger. More followed. It was contentious, but all sides received a proper hearing for their positions.
He championed worthy causes, obsessively covered FHS athletics and told some of the best stories imaginable. Friends with all the local "characters," he was as comfortable with them as with the bank executive downtown, and they were the source of many of his tales.
Throughout his time publishing the paper, he often published old photographs from Fairmont's beginnings. These photos always stimulated the most conversation and created much reader interest. They also piqued my interest in the local history. When Billy was preparing to move to live with his daughter, he asked if I would like to have a few photos and negatives from his Times-Messenger years and proceeded to give me 500 photos and 5,500 black & white negatives from his tenure.
Photo credit: "L" Floyd, used with permission
Billy died on February 25, 2005 in Richmond, VA. Talking with his daughter Cookie at his memorial service in May, 2005 she said, "You'll praise him and cuss him for giving you those negatives, and often in the same sentence." She was correct, and I loved him all the more for it!