On February 24, 1883, Atlanta lawyer Edward F. Hoge published the first edition of The Atlanta Journal. Several years prior, Hoge served as a state legislator and Speaker of the House. Hoge would sell the Journal, only four years later, to fellow lawyer Hoke Smith. Smith parlayed the his ownership into an impressive political career. The Journal’s support for Grover Cleveland’s 1892 campaign earned Smith a job as Secretary of State. But the political winds were blowing against Cleveland; Smith returned to Atlanta shortly after the 1896 elections.
Smith sold his interest in the Journal in 1900. As an aside, a mere seven years later Smith became Governor by aligning himself with Tom Watson. But to get to the general election, Smith faced The Atlanta Constitution’s owner, Clark Howell. He lost Watson’s favor quickly, and ultimately lost the 1909 election to Joseph M. Brown. Roaring back from his loss, Smith recaptured the governorship in the 1911 elections. (Prior to the 1940s, Georgia’s Governors served two-year terms.) The General Assembly selected Smith to finish the term of U.S. Senator Alexander Clay. Smith won reelection in 1914, but Tom Watson defeated him in 1920.
The inagural edition of the Journal laid out Hoge’s plans for the paper:
“The Evening Journal, in presenting itself as a candidate for public favor, has few promises and no boasts to make. Our editorial department will be under the exclusive control of those who are ‘to the manner born,’ and therefore our patrons need not fear that any offense will be given through ignorance of Southern sentiment or lack of sympathy with it. The politics the Journal will be Democratic, though not so (loosely) buckled in the harness that it will unthinkingly yield to the party lash in the hands of those who may assume the right to rule. We commit ourselves unreservedly to the cardinal Democratic principles, but shall deal with party methods as occasions arise.
“As a news gatherer the Journal proposes to stand foremost in the front rank and covets a critical judgment of the public from day to day upon the measure of its success.
“At the same time, it promises that the matter and tone of the paper shall be as fit for the hearthstone as for the hustings. . . .”
Margaret Mitchell wrote for the Journal during the 1920s; many scholars believe Mitchell found inspiration to write “Gone With the Wind” from a particular assignment regarding Confederate Generals. The Journal founded WSB radio in 1922, which was the South’s first radio station. Back then, one could listen to WSB radio by turning their dial to AM 740 as opposed to the AM 750 of today.
The Journal and WSB radio were sold to James Middleton Cox in 1939. That’s Cox, as in Cox Enterprises. Indeed, Cox Enterprises bought The Atlanta Constitution in 1950. The two papers merged and the rest, dear readers, is history.