The History of
Birth of The Seminole Producer
March 1, 1927, Miss Sadie Franklin and I gave birth to the bellering brat
in a concrete block building on East Oak Street. Its birth was painful and
plagued with trouble and uncertainty.
nobody, least of all Sadie and I, expected the wobbly little critter to
survive. We have discussed the question of making it a weekly, semi-weekly
or daily. Sadie made the decision when she said, “Let’s make it a
daily; we’ll go broke and get out of here quicker that way.”
merchant who bought the largest ad in the first issue said he wanted to
help us, but a daily couldn’t possibly succeed in Seminole.
had a daily newspaper. As a weekly, semi-weekly and lastly as a daily, it
had survived only four
March 1, 1927, was dark, damp, and dismal. On the morning of that first
publication day the Producer
didn’t have a
subscriber and not an inch of advertising had been sold. Midmorning L. W.
Kitchens, superintendent of schools, came to the office and paid for a
year’s subscription, and the Producer
went to press that day
with a circulation of exactly one.
printer was on hand. By wire and mail we had hired another printer, an
editor, an advertising man, and a linotype operator. The operator arrived
at midnight Monday. The editor, bogged down in the mud between Ardmore and
Seminole, arrived after the first issue had gone to press. The other two
didn’t reach Seminole until later in the week.
was not by our choosing that Sadie and I had come to Seminole. We had sold
the printing plant in Kansas to an adventurer who had more courage than
judgment. He had moved it to the wild and wooly oil boom town.
was not a foot of paving in the county. There were few sidewalks in
Seminole. The streets were a sea of mud. There was little law and no
order. The city water supply from two shallow wells was utterly
inadequate. Electric and gas service faltered and often failed; telephone
service was almost non-existent.
of boomers milled about the streets and the town’s most prosperous
business establishments, the two “49er” dance halls. We stood in long
lines to get into the post office, the banks, the freight and express
offices and the cafes. Cot houses flourished as oil workers slept in
11 the adventurer who had established the Seminole
Morning Tribune gave up the struggle as hopeless and turned the plant
back to me, and the Tribune became
nothing more than a memory.
made numerous efforts to sell the plant, nothing down and liberal terms.
It was mortgaged for more than its worth, and I found no buyer. Pat
Stewart, the printer retained when the Tribune
folded, and I were doing some job printing for cash so we could
continue to eat at the Chinese restaurant next door.
a few days I became somewhat acclimated, and decided it might not be too
bad after all. After hours of waiting my turn at the telephone office, I
reached Sadie by telephone in Chicago and asked her to come to Seminole. I
met her at the Rock Island station with a pair of rubber boots in my hand.
She wore them for three months.
the fact that we wanted to “go broke and get out of there” accounted
in part for the Producer’s success.
Anyhow, the Producer was soon
swinging with both fists.
first big victory came early in 1928 at the end of a crusade to clean up
the county’s law enforcement agencies. Eleven deputy sheriffs were
dismissed and three constables were asked to resign. Two resigned, the
third was ousted after giving us our first libel suit.
rapidly we acquired several such suits for a total of some $265,000. But
the Producer was winning most of
its battles, was growing in prestige, in circulation and in advertising.
The job printing department, which brought in more dollars than the
newspaper in those early months, became a sideline.
town was moving forward too. In mid-March 1927, Governor Henry S. Johnston
appointed an entire new city administration and school board. Under the
new leadership of Mayor J. N. Harber and School Board President George
Killingsworth, a new day came to Seminole.
the years, I have formed one very definite conclusion. There are four
things that a community must have if it is to grow and prosper. If it has
these four, all the other necessary adjuncts to community life will
follow. It if doesn’t have all four, it withers and dies.
the spiritual and cultural sides, it must have churches in numbers, and it
must have good schools. On the business side, it must have banks with a
deep-rooted interest in the community. To inform and enlighten the people
on matters of public interest, it must have at least one aggressive and fearless
James T. and Sadie Jackson owned and operated the Seminole Producer from 1927 until 1946.
The Phillips Years
1946 to present
Milt Phillips and his brother Tom got an early start in the newspaper profession. Their uncle Willard published a Norman, Oklahoma newspaper, the Topic-Democrat, starting in 1899. There Milt and Tom learned the newspaper business from the bottom up starting work as "Printer's Devils".
Tom later worked for the Norman Transcript, the Kingfisher
Free Press and Chickasha Daily Express newspapers as a reporter and
sports editor. In 1922 while working for Senator Elmer Thomas in Washington
D.C., he founded the Oklahoma Congressional News Bureau.
In 1925 Tom purchased the Holdenville News and converted it into the Holdenville Daily News in 1927.
Tom ran a feisty newspaper, never one to hold back the truth. After one election State Senator Tom Anglin pulled a gun on Tom Phillips. The Senator was disarmed by local businessman Frank Willis and Tom escaped unharmed.
Another of Tom and Milt's brothers, J.B., was later killed by a single gunshot while inside the Holdenville Daily News office. He was guarding the newspaper office overnight after threats to burn it down had been received from a local political figure.
Milt entered WWI after enlisting in the Army. After the war he
attended the University of Oklahoma. In 1930 while working for the American
Legion he started editing the Legion's newspaper, the Oklahoma Legionnaire.
Milt and Tom purchased the Seminole Producer in 1946. In 1948 they combined it with the Seminole County News to form one daily paper.
In 1950 they purchased the Wewoka Times and the Wewoka Democrat and combined them into one daily paper.
Their plan was to make one central printing plant in Wewoka for all three newspapers. Tom was later diagnosed with cancer and died in 1956. Tom's widow, Aldene, kept the Holdenville paper, Milt kept the Seminole paper and the Wewoka paper was sold off.
In the late fifties Milt wanted to insure that his key employees would remain in the business, so he sold minority interests to three of his staffers. Ted Phillips, Carroll Sciance and Alex Adwan became partners in the Producer. Alex later sold back his interest when he moved to Houston to become the U.P.I bureau chief.
Carroll Sciance remained a partner with Milt and then Ted until his death in 1992. Stu Phillips acquired the stock that Carroll Sciance owned. Stu and Ted were partners in the Seminole Producer until Ted's death in 2004.
In the year 2000 Stu repurchased the Wewoka Times. It is currently a weekly paper.
Seminole Morning News office, before merging with the Producer.
Annual paperboy Christmas dinner.
The old flatbed press in use at he Producer from 1930s to 1963.
Ted Phillips, Carroll Sciance and Milt Phillips inspect the printing.
G..R. Underwood longtime Producer pressman.
The Producer's back shop circa 1930s.
Doyle Barlow and John Lewis starting the presses.
A young Milt Phillips.
Milt Phillips' early years working as a paperboy.
Milt Phillips being interviewed for a magazine article.
Milt Phillips sits for the sculptor who created the bust used for the Oklahoma Press Association's highest award.
Annually since 1979 the association awards one of it's members the "Milt Phillips Award"
1946 Producer news staff.
1946 Producer production department. Ted Phillips (bottom right).
Ted Phillips giving local school children a tour of the 'newspaper factory".
Producer staff circa 2003.