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Six reporters, publishers inducted into Missouri hall of fame

Saturday, September 10, 2011 | 4:00 p.m. CDT; updated 6:37 p.m. CDT, Sunday, September 11, 2011

BRANSON — A St. Louis husband and wife who were pioneers in the black press are among the latest inductees into the Missouri Press Association Newspaper Hall of Fame.

The induction program was Friday at the annual MPA convention in Branson. It was the 21st induction class of the Hall of Fame, established in 1991.

Six people were inducted, including Nathaniel and Melba Sweets, longtime leaders of the St. Louis American. Nathaniel Sweets joined the American in 1929 — a year after it was founded — as advertising manager. He became publisher in 1932.

Melba Sweets soon joined the newspaper as editor and columnist. Her gossip column called "We're Tellin'" ran for more than 45 years.

The couple mentored many young black reporters, some of whom eventually moved on to publications such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Time magazine. Nathaniel Sweets died in 1988, and Melba Sweets died in 2006.

Joining the Sweets in the Hall of Fame:

  • Norman Colman, who in 56 years of publishing in the late 1800s and early 1900s was deemed the "dean of agriculture journalism" and who was the MPA's second president in 1870 and 1871. He died in 1911.
  • Retired Gasconade County Republican publisher Don Warden, whose parents became part owners of the newspaper in Owensville in 1949. The family became sole owners in 1963. Don Warden and his brother bought out their parents in 1977. Tom Warden retired in 2000, and Don Warden became solo publisher. His son, Dennis, took over operation when Don Warden retired in 2008.
  • Lamar Democrat owner and publisher Doug Davis, whose newspaper has a program to teach journalism to high school students and provides scholarships for newspaper interns. Davis and his wife, Rayma, have owned the Democrat since 1985.
  • Sedalia Democrat reporter Ron Jennings, who for 35 years wrote news, reviews and features for the Democrat. He has battled brain cancer since 1990 but continued to work until 2007. Upon his 30th anniversary at the Democrat, then-U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton read a tribute to him into the Congressional Record.

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