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INTERVIEW OF LINUS WILLIAMS
By Rick Patton
LINUS WILLIAMS: My wife and I came to Stigler in 1947, we came here from Joplin, Missouri, where I was assistant manager
of the city of commerce. I had served in the army 5 years in World War II and I liked a few hours having my degree, so I
went to the University of Arkansas. When I finished my degree, I was offered a job with the Joplin Chamber of Commerce as
Assistant Manager. But I was interested in buying a daily newspaper, so while I was there I would go and look at various
newspapers that I thought might be for sale. I was coming through Stigler in 1947, and my parents live in Spiro, so I thought
I would stop and see about the two newspapers here. So I decided I would stop and see if either of them wanted to sell, and
one of the newspapers was owned by Nat Henderson and his brother Virgil, and they did indicate that they did want to sell,
so we bought it in December of 1947. Then we started operation on the first day of January, 1948.
And at that time there was a lot of agitation in the city type of government. The year before they had changed from the
old mayor council form of government to the city manager type of government. But there was a group that was unhappy about
(it) and they wanted to go back to the old type government, they started a circulated petition to do away with the city manager
type government, but they found out that the city manager type was really the best. But when they got the petition some of
the signatures were removed, because some of the people that were for the city type government, encouraged some of the people
to take their names off. So they didn't have enough names on the petition to call a vote, to do away with the city manager
But the election was coming within a few months, so they got a slate of candidates to run against the ones that were in.
At that time all the city council were elected at one time and voted out at one time. Now have two members of the council
elected one year, and the next year, I believe, three, so they can't do away with the council all at one time. In those days
they could and we had quite a bitter campaign. Even families were divided on that, but I think that Stigler has prospered
under the city manager type government. It's been operated in a city type way. Back in the old days of the old council manager
type government, the man would get on the city council, the man would take his name off the payroll, off the water roll, and
also take the names off of some of his friends. So eventually only about half the people were paying for water.
Then the new city manager came in, a fellow by the name of Allen Webster, who was perhaps one of the best city managers
we ever had here in Stigler. But when he saw the other group had elected their own slate, he decided he would look for another
job. And he went to be city manager of Durant, then he kept going up and the last I heard he was in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Well, back in those days politics were a lot better than they are now and that was not the only bitter fight we experienced
in those years. At the time we came her the city managers had been in favor of going back to the old mayor of government
because politicians had more influence under that. And they would have cut the Stigler New Sentinel off any business if they
had. But the county elections were coming up in a few months and we got behind the people that filed against them, and the
old county commissioners were defeated. And since that time most of those people have been good friends of ours.
Well the town operated with two newspapers until 1949 and at that time we bought the Haskell County Tribune which was
owned by Roy Bankhead, and we consolidated under one name the Stigler News Sentinel. The Stigler New Sentinel is a successor
to several newspapers, it was started back in 1903 as State Sentinel, it was started in Henryetta and a year later moved to
Stigler. At that time there was another called the Haskell County News but in a few years it consolidated too.
RICK PATTON: Who ran the wanted posters?
LINUS WILLIAMS: No, they are usually printed by the federal authorities.
We have seen a lot of improvements here since we came. When we moved here there was nothing north of H Street, and about
the only thing out there was farm houses. And then we didn't have a hospital, and now we do. I think one of the biggest
changes is th4e increase of residential homes and also in the quality of the homes and back in 1947 there was very few homes
that you would call nice, but now there are quite a few beautiful homes. And another improvement has been in the roads, they
are much better and have a lot of improvements on Highway 9.
RICK PATTON: When did they put that in?
LINUS WILLIAMS: Highway 9 has been here for many, many years, but it wasn't all paved. From Whitefield to Eufaula had
not been paved at that time. And Highway 2 was gravel, also.
RICK PATTON: Did you write most of the stories?
LINUS WILLIAMS: I wrote most of the front page stories, and sold quite a few ads. About the only thing I do now is write
sports, I do that sort of as a hobby.
RICK PATTON: About how large was the paper then?
LINUS WILLIAMS: When we took over the circulation was about twelve hundred, but only about six hundred were paying.
We didn't have a very good bookkeeping system and were sending them out free, but we stopped that when they didn't (pay),
we took them off our list.
RICK PATTON: What would have been considered front page then?
LINUS WILLIAMS: Killings and murders, along with political stories. People are always interested in courthouse news,
and the different trials.
RICK PATTON: Has the high school been here since around statehood?
LINUS WILLIAMS: Yes. At the time we came here the high school gym was in the old rock building. At the time we came
here they were talking about the Eufaula dam. And that was one of the reasons we bought the paper was because of the Eufaula
dam. And that has helped the industry around here. This has always been a coal mining area, outside of agriculture. Usually
the case when someone comes in and buys the newspaper and the people you buy from remain in town, soon they become enemies,
but that hasn't been true with Nat and Virgil Henderson. We all remained real good friends, both of them helped us in every
way they could. After about 10 years Virgil died, but Nat stayed on and they have always been very helpful to us.
RICK PATTON: When did Nat and Virgil start running the paper?
LINUS WILLIAMS: They had really only ran it for a year. During most of the time we have been here we have hired at least
one high school student, sometimes two. We used to hire a boy to clean up the place. And picked a girl for the front office,
mostly from their grades, and unless they were a straight A student or close to a straight A student, we didn't hire them.
And we had real good luck with all of our students. We've had some go on into journalism, and Gene Curtis whose dad used
to run this paper years ago is now managing editor of the Tulsa World. Of the kids that have worked for us, most of them
have been valedictorians and salutatorians.
(This concludes the interview of Linus Williams, by Rick Patton.)
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