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Bigotry At The Johnson County Graphic, Clarksville, Arkansas (And What You Can Do)

September 13, 2007

The Johnson County Graphic,
203 East Cherry Street, Clarksville, Arkansas
Phone 1-(479)-754-2005 * FAX 1-(479)-754-2098

Bigotry comes in all shapes and sizes, but does it need to happen at the time of a parent’s death?  My story tells all we need to know about the state of small mindedness and hate in America today.  It is an ugly story.

My mother’s obituary was printed in full recently in five Wisconsin newspapers.  Since she had grown up in Ozone, Arkansas we felt that it would be proper for the local newspaper, The Johnson County Graphic, in nearby Clarksville, to also print it. 

However, when it was printed the newspaper staff made a decision to take my life-partners name out of the text.  My siblings had their spouses listed.  The paper even found the space to list all the grandchildren and their spouses.  But my family was omitted, not by accident, but due to outright bigotry. The fact that the newspaper went searching for the names of those grandchildren and their spouses from a longer version of the obituary that we had also submitted, only adds to the insult.

When I contacted the newspaper to better understand what happened I found that bigotry is alive and well even within what is supposed to be a more enlightened profession.  I was told that the Graphic is “a family owned newspaper” and the obituary editor makes the decision to include or exclude names.  When I pressed the paper in a polite fashion about this omission of my partner they told me they have a policy of printing only spouse’s names.  In other words, loving families that are not allowed to get married due to bigotry in this nation, are also not allowed to be even mentioned in obituaries in southern newspapers?

When I pointed out the fact that families in America come in all shapes and sizes there was really no response, except to repeat, “we are a family owned newspaper”.  It was obvious that the only rationale to this deplorable policy of The Johnson County Graphic was one of pure bigotry.  I don’t think Wanda Williams, the obituary editor at the newspaper, created this policy on her own.  This warped and outdated policy was hatched in the minds of those who own the paper, and have clearly never cerebrally stepped out of Johnson County, Arkansas.

I suggest that Ron Wylie, the General Manager of the newspaper, pick up the New York Times style manual, read it, and use it.  I have one on my desk at all times, and find that on page 254 the book states that partner “is a suitable term for an unmarried companion of the same sex or the opposite one”.  Even if the Johnson County Graphic doesn’t know what a style manual is they certainly should understand an act of humanity. Or in this case the lack of it.   THIS WAS AN OBITUARY AND THE JOHNSON COUNTY GRAPHIC USED IT TO PROMOTE BIGOTRY.  I suspect these same ‘fine genteel southern folk’ at the newspaper will be sitting proud and proper in a pew on Sunday morning.  But look how they live during the week.

They may be a family owned newspaper in Arkansas, but we are a loving family in Madison, Wisconsin.  To read in The Johnson County Graphic that my relationship is not worth the ink of publication is nasty and hurtful.  It is also symptomatic of the hate and bigotry that resides in America today.

Therefore, I post the following contact information for The Johnson County Graphic.  They need to hear from citizens about this offensive policy.  Put a note in the mail, write a letter to the editor of the paper, or give a quick call and let your voice be heard.  Bigotry is allowed only when we do nothing to stop it.

The Johnson County Graphic
203 East Cherry Street, Clarksville, Arkansas
Phone 1-(479)-754-2005 * FAX 1-(479)-754-2098

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Roger permalink
    May 16, 2008 12:03 AM

    Sorry about all the ranting about Clarksville.But what happened really made me angry. And the people here need to be told off.There is just no excuse for anyone being treated like that.

  2. Roger permalink
    May 15, 2008 11:57 PM

    I have lived in Clarksville for several years now.
    And yes the are very prejudiced backwards people here.
    I would love to leave but my ex-wife is here with my children. Me and my fiance have several gay friends that live in Clarksville, and all of them are treated like crap by the people that live here. The residents of Johnson county don’t like gay people, black people, or anyone else that doesn’t fit their little little mold they think all people should fit into. The editor and manager of this little hick newspaper are fools,and nothing else. As far as this being the bible belt. We have some very good two faced,hypocritical,lying,cheating christians here that that think they need to impose their beliefs on everyone.
    This is a dry county because alcohol is bad and not allowed but all of them drive sixteen miles and buy it to bring home. We have a private club here, and every weekend a few good church goers are there getting drunk. We finally got an adult store here, and the police arrested the owner for violating pornography laws. And there are always so called respected members of town in the place shopping late at night. I know because I shop there alot. And you are right these people have no idea what the real world is like outside of Clarksville,and most everyone is very prejudiced, and uneducated.And it’s not just the Graphic,it’s everywhere you look around here.

    It is really bad that they act like that even in the event of someone passing away. Maybe someone will get tired of the Discrimination policy at the Graphic and make it aware to everyone in a court room next time it takes place. Than maybe these people would open there eyes to the real world around them.

    Since you won’t get it from anyone else here.I’ll apologize to you for there ignorance.And my mom is very ill, so I will find out soon enough if they will include my fiance’s name with the family.

    As far as the person who wrote I Hate and am proud of it. That is the most ignorant sob I have ever seen.
    And i wish they would come to my house so we could discuss religion. That way I can enlighten them as to how the christian religion got it start. What it is based on, and where there ceremonies originated. because obviously they have no clue about anything.

  3. May 7, 2008 2:04 AM

    I think most of these posting are old but it caught my attention and would like to add my 2 cents.

    I have lived in Clarksville, AR for 18 years before that I lived in Camden, AR for 7 years.

    First of all Camden is a dry county, they do not sell liquor there. The bowling alley guy was saying he was Family oriented but really if he tried to even get a liquor license it would cost a fortune. So I don’t think the guys that were in Camden were being mistreated in any way. And I agree with someone that if they want to say they have “family values” then who knows what they mean by that. Most of us (even in AR) have gay relatives or friends.

    Now about Clarksville. I even know the lady in charge of the Wanda Williams and even Ron Wylie. Wanda is the nicest, sweetest lady you will ever meet. I don’t even believe she is in any way a bigot. You don’t even know her. To me she is a employee of the paper, so if that is a policy then she has to stand behind it. While I don’t always agree with Ron Wylie, he is a good man. I just can’t see him being homophobic. Maybe someone made an error and didn’t want to admit it. I have seen others that have a “life” partner etc. in the obtuaries in the Johnson County Graphic before.

    You may be very surprised that we have a big group of lesbian women living in the Clarksville area and they work all over town and no one says or does anything to bother them.

    Maybe you should get in touch with someone from this area and ARkansas. I agree with one that said the very bigotry you are trying to fight against is alive here when you put all Arkansas people down. This was this ONE guys experience!

    By the way my husband and I too are educated. And guess what our daughter ONLY dates black guys and we are white. Does that matter…not to us. Does it matter to some in Clarskville, if so who cares about them anyway.

  4. Teresa permalink
    December 15, 2007 10:44 AM

    I am not going to argue with the ignorance of the Clarksville Graphic. I agree it is a horrid little paper and the people running it are complete jokes, you can’t expect them to take on aspects of big newspapers such as the NY Times. I live in the Clarksville/Lamar area in Arkansas. My husband and I are educated and are professionals. We stay in the area because of our son and because of the one on one our son can get from the smaller school. My husband and I have family in many other more progressive states, we have traveled extensively for work and personal reasons. The only argument I have to give in amongst this blogging is that I take offense to bigotry toward Arkansas and the southern mentality. There are more people here are that open and accepting than that are not. Bigots are everywhere in this great country of ours. You pick on Arkansas because of sterotypes. Isn’t that what homosexuals fight? Stereotypes. I feel anyone and everyone should be allowed to marry if they so choose. However the comments about establishments not serving alcohol because it is a “family place” is not an insult. In case some of you haven’t noticed, people tend to get biligerent and you have shady characters when there is alcohol served. If any of you are parents you will understand you don’t want your young child exposed to that. Granted that means you can go elsewhere for family fun, but a bowling alley is privately owned and if a buisness owner chooses to not sell alcohol then that is their buisness and shouldn’t be judged for such things. Arkansas has many wonderful qualities, it has possibilities, and it’s a beautiful state. Also, the southern accent, please do not attack that. I am proud of my accent. Does not mean I am uneducated, does not mean I am stupid, does not mean I am a bigot. Please let up on the southern/Arkansas hate. Do not stereotype, that is what is killing us all.

    And I will be calling The Graphic. There isn’t much anyone can do, it is a privately owned paper, and their ignorance is why I do not purchase the paper. However, I will call them and they will hear another voice against their attitudes.

  5. I Hate And Am Proud Of It permalink
    October 24, 2007 10:44 PM

    I AM TIRED OF THIS!
    I am tired of hearing about how homosexuals are so mistreated. I believe it is more important to be able to pray in school, worship our God and his son Jesus, but of course, in our society today, the homosexuals will get thier way but Christians will lose that fight again. I am sorry to tell you this, in case you haven’t heard, we do not have to except you and your way of living. I do not want those kind of actions around my children and it is a SIN!!! If you read your bible you would know this. Call me what you want, say what you want about our newspaper, but this is the bible belt and I am proud I live in it and I am proud we still stand up for what we believe is the right and proper way to live. I would prefer to keep my backwoods mentality than to ever except that way of life that our God said was a sin. We all know what happened at Sodom and Gomorrah. I did have a homesexual for a cousin, who is dead now, but that still does not change my thinking. It is wrong so if you want to come Arkansas, go to Hot Springs or Eureka Springs, no one says you have to come to Clarksville. Don’t dog the town I love just because we don’t want to change our ways of thinking. You change.

  6. Coleman permalink
    September 15, 2007 9:45 PM

    Good & Important Discussion Guys –

    I Used To Live In The Area of AR
    We’ve Been Discussing –
    My Son Went To Hendrix College
    (Surprisingly, Officially
    One of The Most Gay-Friendly Colleges
    In The U.S.) In Conway AR –
    Just Down The Interstate From Clarksville.

    There Is A Backwoods Mentality
    In AR –
    As Well As A Very Progressive Breed
    of New Educated Folks
    Who Have Been Moving
    Into That Area.

    I Personally Agree That We Should
    Continue To Quietly Affect Change
    & That Change Will Slowly But Surely
    Happen.

    As To Eureka Springs AR – It Itself Is Quite An Interesting Conundrum –
    With Conservative Evangelists & Progessive Gays & Artist Types
    All Sharing That Same Space,

  7. T.P. permalink
    September 14, 2007 9:26 PM

    It is all so very disturbing, just another of the stones that heterosexist society continues to cast upon those who are not like them in sexual orientation. One of the things that I’ve learned, from the many years of philosophical arguments I’ve had, is one certain way to lose any argument is to allow your opponent to set definitions without contest and without analysis. This deal with “family values” is exactly one of them. This phrase is used as an emotional treasure drove to drive people, like a herd, in a particular direction desired by those in power. The word family has been taken hostage and is used as a justification for unkindness and judgmentalism. If I recall correctly, the relationship between a man and woman, and the children and so forth where not called a family proper, but called a house. Marriage between a man and woman does not create a family, but creates a house. But family was much more than a house. Family was the building block of the kinship structure, which was not restricted to the house. Family included, not just mother and father, son and daughter, but also grandmother and grandfather, aunt and uncle, nephew and niece, and on the periphery of the family circle, the cousin. Family was the unit that composed a clan, as clan was the unit that composed the tribe and tribe the unit that finally composed a nation. A house does not deal with anything as extensive. Those who were your kin you were expected to treat with kindness, that is family values. How has the debate concerning “family values” been allowed to be reduced to “house values”, and the house been allowed to posit itself as in fact superior to a larger body, the family collective. This is exactly the problem, and it is the bane and poison of historical heterosexism, a reduction of everything to the house, and domestic values. A man who has a gay son is still his father and family values would dictate he behave with paternal kindness toward his gay son, as a gay son should behave with filial kindness toward his straight father. That a father would feel justified in mistreating his son because his son for whatever reason does not follow in his footsteps to produce a house is baffling. How it is justified is a demonstration of monstrous thinking. If a man fails in being kind toward his father and mother, or brothers and sisters, or aunts and uncles, or nephews and nieces, or cousins even, then maybe one could justify his mistreatment by his family members, but to justify that he be mistreated and abused on the grounds that he is gay, that he loves another man, and not a woman.

    This newspaper has nothing to do with “family values”, but only with “domestic values”. They could careless about family, the bonds between kinfolk. Anything beyond the heterosexual relationship is invalidated. While this is not the time of the Greeks, if I recall, to the Greeks, or some Greek thinkers, the house was the domain of the man and woman. In the same way that a family is the unit that composes a clan, so the house was a unit that composed a city. But the city was the domain of men, the realm of politics. I’m sorry that you experienced this mistreatment and bigotry and bias. It is uncalled for, especially in this day and age. It is more than likely true that such a newspaper would suffer from the schemes of those who feel there is no restriction on the harm they can do to those who they deem less than human, but which nature, flesh, blood, and soul, says are their kinfolk, to whom kindness and fairness are most assuredly due – if they had any family values at all.

  8. Steven permalink
    September 13, 2007 11:34 PM

    I am outraged by this news and will be calling the Johnson County Graphic myself tomorrow too. I have a few questions for them about this policy of theirs.

    Does this “family-oriented” policy of theirs extend to all unmarried couples? Why do I have the distinct feeling that the Graphic would not exclude someone if they were listed as a fiancée? Why do I suspect that in this day and age where more and more of our nation’s Seniors are living in relationships where they are not married, but are together for companionship, that this paper would not exclude them either? More importantly, why would a newspaper of any quality whatsoever create a policy that only works to single out only one type of person–gay? According to the last census, in Johnson County there were roughly 22000 households, of which 366 were of the unspeakable sort. Why would you create a policy to attack less than 1.6% of the population. And then to implement such a hateful policy in someone’s mother’s obituary. My GOD the lack of humanity!!

    It seems to me that this is a convenient way to make the “gay problem” go away–just exclude them from your paper when necessary and Voila!, problem solved.

    The real problem is of course that this paper likely only implements this policy of theirs when it suits their own narrow political agenda. I am willing to bet that if they could get their hands on some photo of cross-dressers in a Pride Parade, or write of some Senator demeaning himself (and everyone who is gay in the process), that they would print that story. It is helpful in that sort of case, when one wants to demonize all gay people as being promiscuous or living some strange and unacceptable ‘lifestyle’, not to have any recognizable sign that there are thousands of gay couples all across America. In fact, my relationship, which can not as of yet be sanctified under law, has lasted longer than the average marriage in the country!

  9. KeKe permalink
    September 13, 2007 10:42 PM

    I’m going to call the Graphic tomorrow, but this rings sooooo true to a personal experience I had several years ago. The situations are nowhere approximate and the pain you feel in regards to your life-partner being deleted is significant. I’m writing this just to add a little humor to the situation and I hope you appreciate it.

    My grandmother lived in Camden, AR and I went to visit her before she passed away. I went with my partner and met up with my gay cousin, whom she had raised as a child. During the visit, we decided to go bowling. I knew Ouchita County wasn’t a dry county because I had seen some liquor “outlets” around town, but I wasn’t quite certain of the exact rules. To me, bowling and beer kinda go together so, when I found the lanes didn’t sell beer, I went to the counter and asked the manager why they did not. I’ll never forget his response. In that slow, southern Arkansas drawl, he said, “Well….. we could serve beer here but we choose not to. We’re a family kinda place here and we don’t cater to them kind of people…” If he only knew that 3 HOMOSEXUALS were bowling in his establishment that night…. :) The use of the word “family” as though that were a legitimate explanation brought back these memories for me.

    Anyhow, I hope the editor off the Graphic receives several calls in the next couple of days and, if nothing else, causes him to realize there is a world outside of Johnson County, Arkansas. Trust me…. not all Arkansans do.

    My condolences on the loss of your mother. My mother passed away a couple of years ago & I know it’s not easy.

    God bless,

  10. September 13, 2007 3:51 PM

    what an outrage

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