As family ownership ends at the Dispatch·Argus, a tribute to its longtime publisher

Thanks, Mr. Taylor, for taking a chance on me

John Marx
John Marx

I knew it was coming, but in what form and when the news would arrive was the mystery.

I knew the family — and that’s what you were part of when working under the Small Newspaper Group umbrella — was charting a different course with its newspapers.

It came down Monday (June 17). Lee Enterprises purchased the Dispatch•Argus• from the Small family.

More about Lee in a moment.

First, though, something about the Smalls and the man who guided my workforce fortunes for 30-plus years, Jerry “Mr.” Taylor.

Len R. Small — called “Rob” by some, but called “Mr. Small” by me — is a kind, considerate and caring man who did his best to treat those in his employ with grace and dignity. I will miss far more than his signature at the bottom of my pay stub. I will share my gratitude with him in private.

But the real reason I stand before you today, 32 years after my first byline appeared, is Mr. Taylor. “Jerry” to some, always “Mr. Taylor” to me, he is a husband, dad, grandpa and friend to those lucky enough to have him in their lives.

They come no finer than Mr. Taylor, who is retiring as the publisher of the Dispatch•Argus• after 40-plus years at the helm. I met Mr. Taylor after The Dispatch purchased The Rock Island Argus in 1986, while covering a prep baseball game in which his son Phil was playing.

I cannot tell you what impression I left on Mr. Taylor that day, but I was taken with the fact that he had six kids, and though he was running two newspapers — and many a Friday I saw him at 6 a.m. and again at midnight on deadline — he managed to make it all work. He is an amazing family man, dedicated to his wife, Martha, a saint herself, who always found time to make two publications and an online option relevant.

In the three decades I was lucky enough to work for Mr. Taylor, I never saw him talk down to or embarrass an employee. He is so secure with the way he lives his life that he didn’t have to do such things. You had a job to do and he — knowing he had the right people in the right places — allowed you to do your job.

If you had a problem, you knocked on his door, you plopped your feet up on his desk, and you solved the problem — personal, financial or work-related. Mr. Taylor took a chance on me as a sportswriter and then allowed me to occupy a chair once held by a writing legend, and for that, I will forever be in his debt.

Now to the matter at hand.

Over the coming weeks, please remember that Lee Enterprises is a tremendous company and will take you, the reader, into the future with an invaluable print and digital presence. It serves 49 markets in 21 states, so it has a gauge of what makes a great newspaper. This paper will still — and I cannot emphasize this enough — continue to be your Dispatch•Argus.

Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309-757-8388 or