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The Mountain Advocate, Barbourville's oldest weekly newspaper, has covered southeastern Kentucky for more than a century. The Advocate began in 1904 after an attempt by founding editor, Daniel W. Clark, to establish another paper in central Kentucky failed. Clark moved to Barbourville where his outspoken Republican editorials found a more welcoming home. Although previous newspapers had failed in the city, Clark declared in the first issue that, under his guidance as a seasoned journalist, the paper was “here to stay.” By the paper’s 40th anniversary, the four-page weekly had expanded to 12 full pages of news, features, and advertisements.
In line with the Mountain Advocate's earliest slogan, "For Barbourville and Knox County First,” local interests dominated the paper’s content. Columns like "Grapevine" filled an entire page with community happenings, marriages, club meetings and the like. Agriculture columns such as "Poultry Cackles" and "Farming in Knox County" featured Knox County's leading industry. When oil became important in the early 20th century, the front page featured "Oil News," detailing operations of Ken-Flo, Bingham, Wymond, and other oil companies. Not surprising, the Advocate proudly claimed the title of "The Official Organ of the Republican Party in Knox County" and wholeheartedly promoted the party's interests. In fact, the paper notably influenced the political career of Flem D. Sampson, Kentucky's 42nd governor.
Barbourville is also home to Union College. Established in 1879, the school was built when the impoverished town had fewer than 500 residents. Barbourville was proud of its institution of higher learning and the Advocate devoted an entire page to school news covering commencement ceremonies, athletic scores and rankings, and honor rolls. The college and other schools also wrote original content for the Advocate. A common theme in many Advocate editorials was the importance of civic duty. Clark vigorously promoted the development of Barbourville’s industries, and in one issue posed the question: "Are Our Citizens Dead or Alive? - If not why is it that we have no more enterprise here than what we see?" Clark's editorial opinions influenced the construction of a water plant, a fire department, and an addition to the courthouse.
The Mountain Advocate has had many devoted editors during its life. Clark stayed with the publication for seven years before selling it to Charles D. Cole and Fred W. Hemphill in 1911. The pair sold the paper to W.H. McDonald after two years. In 1919, McDonald sold it to Fred Burman, who operated the Advocate with his wife Jeannie until 1923 when the paper was again sold, first to Ben H. Gregory and later to Milo D. Enderson and P.M. Ricketts. After a century in business, the Advocate is still published by the Advocate Publishing Company in Barbourville.
Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY