Edward J. Meeman
Evansville Press; The Knoxville News; The Knoxville News-Sentinel; Memphis Press-Scimitar
Edward J. Meeman was a gentle but forceful champion of causes during his nearly sixty years as a newspaperman.
He fought corrupt city governments in Knoxville and Memphis and won, exposed exploitation of sharecroppers and abuses of Negroes, championed civil rights against all prevailing public sentiment, and was a tireless battler for conservation of the state's and nation's natural resources during his lifetime.
His good works have lived on after his death through the Edward J. Meeman Foundation, which inherited most of his personal fortune. The Foundation has given conservation writing awards annually, has made major grants to the University of Tennessee and Memphis State University to encourage journalism education, and continues to present awards to Tennessee newsmen for excellence in editorials and o public service.
Meeman was born October 2, 1889, in Evansville, Indiana. He was graduated from high school in 1907 and began his newspaper career as a reporter that year with the Evansville Press. He founded the Knoxville News, a Scripps-Howard newspaper, in 1921 and edited it and its successor, the Knoxville News-Sentinel, until 1931.
While editor of the News-Sentinel, he fought a corrupt city government through aggressive editorials and news coverage and brought about a change to a council-manager government. He campaigned through his newspaper for flood control. He became editor of the Memphis Press-Scimitar in 1931 and continued championing causes. He took on the Memphis political boss, E. H. Crump, immediately, and after 17 years of battling saw the end of boss rule with the passage of laws repealing the poll tax and setting up permanent voter registration and the use of voting machines.
He led his paper in advocating civil rights, founded "Save-Enrich Our Soil," an organization to encourage better agricultural and conservation practices, and worked through his paper and privately to encourage the government to purchase 12,500 acres of land in Shelby County for a state park. After his death this forest was named Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park in his honor.
Meeman wrote with clarity and vigor, and he continued to devote that talent to the causes of conservation and ecology even after he retired as editor of the Press-Scimitar in 1962. As conservation editor of all Scripps-Howard newspapers from 1962 until his death in 1966, he repeatedly urged upon his readers an awareness of the precious values of natural resources.