Guard general manager retiring
May 16, 2018
Forty-six years ago Pat Jones agreed to a six-month stint at the Batesville Daily Guard.
What she didn’t know is that those six months would turn into a lifetime career, and now it’s time to let someone else “hold onto the rudder,” as she’s often said.
Pat Jones came to the Guard office in 1972 for what was supposed to be a six-month job to get the new IBM System’s 32 business computers going.
She knew going in, however, that she had married into a longtime newspaper family, where there was as much ink in their veins as blood.
She found a lot of support at the paper and ended up staying on and after the untimely death of her father-in-law, who had bought the paper in 1929, she and Wilson Powell took over the reins of the business.
Today, the Guard is the only remaining family-owned daily newspaper in the state, and while that may or may not change in the near future, one thing that will remain constant is the love and dedication she has always given her staff.
In 2007, she and husband O.E. Jones were honored with the Distinguished Service Award at the Arkansas Press Association honors banquet.
Presenting the award was former Guard employee and APA board member Frank Fellone, board member of the APA.
“They say that when you drink the water of the White River you always want to go back,” Fellone said. “Well, the same thing can be said of the Batesville Daily Guard. The memories are so good there because of people like Pat and O.E. Jones.
“The Guard has a rich history of journalism excellence,” Fellone went on to say. “It is the last family-owned daily newspaper in the state of Arkansas. Even after the fire in 1981 which completely destroyed the newspaper’s building, there was not one day of missed printing.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into rebuilding the Guard and it’s because Pat and O.E. Jones put people first and business second.”
But even upon earning the award, Pat — like always — complimented her staff.
“They are so supportive. I’m holding onto the rudder but I feel we are also the best because of the staff we have. It also helps that I sleep with the publisher,” she joked.
After the presentation, the award has hung proudly in the Guard office, alongside family photos and various mementos.
The oldest business in Batesville, the Guard survived the Great Depression, a destructive arson fire in 1981, and the growing encroachment of online media in the digital age. It is a daily newspaper involved in any and all business related to the growth of Batesville, from county and municipal government, to schools and higher education, to health care, retail, industry and civic and community organizations.
In 2011, Pat accepted the award for Small Business of the Year on behalf of the Guard, which has been a member of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce since its inception in 1919.
She has been a strong voice for Main Street Batesville as well as an avid supporter of Old Independence Regional Museum, the White River Water Carnival and other organizations.
She was instrumental in organizing benefits for the Humane Society of Independence County, a local teen stricken with cancer, a Guard employee planning to go on a mission trip and another Guard employee whose home in India was affected by a massive earthquake in 2001, and she made countless pies for auctions in the early years of John 3:16’s Unity Fest on the River, while always making sure her staff had tickets to the Batesville Kiwanis’ annual pancake breakfast. Under Pat’s leadership the Guard also hosts an annual food drive in October and November for Family Violence Prevention.
She and O.E. were also awarded the White River Shrine Club’s Outstanding Community Leadership Award, and under her leadership the newspaper has received Friend of 4-H and the Ozark Gateway Region’s Friend of Tourism awards, among others.
The Joneses also accepted the DHS Division of Services for the Blind’s Outstanding Business Partner award in 2014 after a 32-year veteran at the Guard lost his vision due to retina conditions caused by diabetes and cataracts.
Pat also served many years on the Board of Directors for the Arkansas Press Association, serving as president in 1995-96.
She’s always been mindful not only of the history of this community, but also of preserving it in the pages of the newspaper — while at the same time trying to keep up with the ever-changing technology trends. News consumption has evolved in the last 50, 10 and even five years, and Pat knows the struggle to balance all of the above.
But some of the best stories have never been written in the Guard, and probably won’t be. More than once Pat has come in with a funny story about her family — more often than not, about O.E. — and had everyone in stitches. But then again, Pat can tell some funny stories about herself (ask her how many times she threw a shoebox away at the store so she could hide a new pair in her purse).
Pat and O.E., who passed away Jan. 27 of this year, raised four children, but somewhere along the way she became a mother, role model and friend to so many others.
We at the Guard are eternally grateful that those “six months” turned into so much more.
A drop-in reception will be held in Pat’s honor at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Citizens Bank Annex, 285 E. College St. in downtown Batesville. All are welcome to attend.