Photo by Jasmyne Ray
W.M. “Mack” Wyatt began his career in journalism at the age of 15 in Clanton, Alabama. With a height of five feet and five inches, he was too small for farm work, so his father suggested that he find a trade in town. That trade would be printing and typesetting.
In 1914, a year after graduating from Cullman County High School, he would become co-owner and editor of the Union Banner, Clanton’s newspaper. His brother, Gene Wyatt, would buy the other half of the paper in 1917 and they would publish the paper together for 18 years. In 1935, Wyatt bought the Montevallo Times and started the Calera Herald in 1951, working as the editor for both until 1954. That year he combined the two papers, creating the Shelby County-Times-Herald. Wyatt would work as the paper’s publisher until selling it to the Shelby County Reporter in 1959.
In honor of Wyatt’s career in journalism, the Carmichael Library introduced the new W.M. “Mack” Wyatt Digital Archives on Friday, Oct. 18. Upon finding a collection of old bound issues of newspapers dating back to the late 1800s, library director Kathleen Lowe saw an opportunity to create a new digital resource for the students of the university.
“I thought ‘Wow, these newspaper must be rare,” Lowe said. “They must hold the stories of what life was like in this area and wouldn’t it [be] great if our history majors could use them?”
There was some hesitation going into the project because of how the newspapers would have to be digitized. There was always the option of microfilming, but using the library’s old microfilm reader would mean having the binding of the issues taken off which would increase the possibility of the print being destroyed. According to Lowe, the library was the only place that had print copies of the newspapers, so whatever digitization method used had to be gentle on the papers.
With the incorporation of a new microfilm reader and considerable assistance from Wyatt’s grandson, Clay Nordan, the library has created online archives of the Montevallo Times, Calera Journal, Shelby Chronicle and Shelby Sentinel, all of which can be viewed on the library’s page on the university website.
“Clay has the vision,” Lowe says. “His grandfather had the same vision: that this area, this town, this county and especially this school are important and significant.”
Old issues of the Montevallo News also have their own archive. The weekly publication was owned by Henry Clay Reynolds, the first president of the Alabama Girls Industrial School, the school that would eventually become the University of Montevallo.