AJC History: The story of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Note: First preserved edition of The Constitution

Our History.


1868: The Atlanta Constitution was founded when Carey Wentworth Styles and two partners, James H. Anderson and W. A. Hemphill bought the Atlanta Daily Opinion newspaper and renamed it The Atlanta Constitution, beginning publication on June 16, 1868. A charter subscription to this early paper cost $10 a year, $1 a month. Atlanta was still under martial law during the Reconstruction era. The founders advocated the return of a constitutional government as had existed before the Civil War, thus the name. Styles sold out to Hemphill and his future father-in-law Anderson six months later. Not long after that Anderson turned his share over to Hemphill who was then the controlling stockholder until 1876.

1876: Evan P. Howell acquires a half interest in The Atlanta Constitution and is named editor-in-chief. He hires Henry Grady as political writer and Joel Chandler Harris as associate editor, beginning an extraordinary era in the paper's history. Howell's family would come to own The Constitution from 1902 to 1950.

1879: Joel Chandler Harris' first Uncle Remus story, The Story of Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox, runs in the Constitution on July 20.

1883: Edward F. Hoge, a lawyer and former Fulton County Legislator, launches The Atlanta Journal, saying its intent is solely to cover local news. The first Journal edition was published on Feb. 24, 1883 and was only four pages long.

1886: Henry Grady makes his first New South address to the New England Society in New York City on December 22. He declares, "We have raised a brave and beautiful city." Among the listeners in his audience: William Tecumseh Sherman.

1887: The Atlanta Journal establishes the south's first society or women's section.

1890: W. A. Hemphill, co-founder of the Constitution, is elected Mayor of Atlanta.

1891: Clark Howell Sr., managing editor of the Constitution, is elected speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.

1902: Future sportswriting hall of famer Grantland Rice takes a job as Sports Editor of the Journal at $12.50 a week. Thanksgiving is his first day on the job, covering a Vanderbilt-Sewanee football game. Vanderbilt received a drubbing.


1909: The Constitution hires its first photographer, Francis E. Price. His first photo, of some cars on a cross-country trip, appears on December 12.

1922: Margaret, then Peggy, Mitchell, begins her brief career as a staff writer for The Atlanta Journal Magazine.

1931: The Atlanta Constitution wins the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, exposing kickbacks in construction of Atlanta City Hall.

1939: James M. Cox, former Governor of Ohio and candidate for President, purchases The Atlanta Journal and WSB Radio for $3,156,350.

1948: George Goodwin of The Atlanta Journal wins The Pulitzer Prize for reporting, exposing vote fraud in Telfair County.

March 1950: Governor Cox purchases The Atlanta Constitution and along with The Atlanta Journal, forms Atlanta Newspapers, Inc. and combines the two papers' Sunday editions.

April 1950: Furman Bisher takes over as Sports Editor of the Constitution. His first column, written in Editor Ralph McGill's office, appears on April 16.

1959: Ralph McGill wins The Constitution's second Pulitzer Prize. McGill wins for Editorial Writing for his many columns on tolerance and integration. The Pulitzer committee specifically cited his front-page essay, A Church, A School, as an example of his work. The column was written after the bombings of Atlanta's largest synagogue and a high school in Clinton, Tennessee.

1960: Jack Nelson of the Constitution wins a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting exposing abuses at Milledgeville State Hospital for the mentally ill.

1967: Editor Eugene Patterson wins The Constitution's fourth Pulitzer, for Editorial Writing.

1968: Harmon Perry breaks the color line in the Journal newsroom as the first black reporter hired by either paper. His first assignment: covering the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. Later that year the Journal publishes a special section, reported and written by Perry and five other reporters called "The Two Atlantas," examining race relations in the city.

Feb 3, 1969: Two days before his 71st birthday Ralph McGill, Atlanta Constitution Publisher and columnist dies a few hours after suffering a heart attack at the home of a friend. The next day one of his last columns, discussing segregation and integration in public schools appears on the front page a few inches away from his obituary. His last column runs on February 9.

1974: Editor Reg Murphy is kidnapped from his home. He was released after 49 hours and the kidnapper, William A.H. Williams, was captured. Williams served nine years and was paroled in 1983.

1976: The Journal and Constitution's Saturday papers are combined into a single Weekend edition.

February 1978: Lewis Grizzard begins his humor column in the Constitution moving from sports writing and editing.

1980: A new section, TV Week, debuts and is promoted with a bird that chirped, "Tweek! Tweek!"

1982: The newsrooms of the Constitution and the Journal combine under the direction of Editor Jim Minter.

1983: Jim Wooten of the Journal wins Scripps Howard's Walker Stone Award for editorial writing.

1986: Editor Jim Minter moves up to Senior Editor of the Journal and Constitution as well as a Vice President of Cox Newspapers. Bill Kovach, Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, takes over as Editor. The changes take place on December 1.

March 1988: Doug Marlette of the Constitution wins the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, sharing it with his previous employer, The Charlotte Observer.

May 1988: The weekly Gwinnett community edition expands from publishing only on Thursdays to six days a week appearing Monday through Saturday. The first non-Thursday edition appears on May 2.

November 1988: Citing differences with the newspapers' management, Editor Bill Kovach resigns on November 4. Arnold Rosenfeld, Editor of the Austin American-Statesman becomes Editor of the Journal and Constitution on November 21.

February 1989: On February 26, Atlanta Weekly, a Sunday magazine founded by the Journal in 1912, publishes its last issue.

March 1989: Bill Dedman wins the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for exposing discrimination in lending practices in metro Atlanta.

May 1989: Ron Martin, Executive Editor of USA Today, kicks off more than a decade of innovation as he moves into the Editor's office on May 8.

May 1989: Seven days makes a week. The Gwinnett section, which originally debuted as a weekly in 1983, begins seven day a week publication with its first Sunday edition on May 14.

1991: Q&A On The News, one of the newspaper's most popular features, debuts during the Persian Gulf War. It's now called Q&A.

1993: Mike Toner wins the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism for When Bugs Fight Back, his series about organisms' resistance to antibiotics and pesticides.

1994: Lewis Grizzard, twentieth century Georgia's favorite humor columnist, dies from complications due to heart disease on March 20. He was 47.

1995: Mike Luckovich of the Constitution wins the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.

1997: Two new sections debut: Faith and Values, a weekly section looking at how Atlantans worship and express their faith begins running Saturdays on January 10. Horizon, a weekly section reporting on metro Atlanta's rapid growth and development debuts on March 10.

1998: AJC.com, based in the newsroom, puts the newspapers' content on the Internet. Launching on February 26, it quickly becomes the number one site for news and information in metro Atlanta.

1999: Celestine Sibley, who began working for the Constitution in 1941 and began writing columns in 1944, succumbs to cancer on August 15. Her column appeared in the Constitution and later both papers for 55 years. She was 85. Sweet Apple will never be the same.

2000: Cynthia Tucker of the Constitution wins the American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Award for column writing.

2001: The last Atlanta Journal is published on November 2. The paper becomes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution seven days a week the next day.

2002: Atlanta & The World, a weekly section chronicling Atlanta's vibrant immigrant communities and the city's interaction with others around the world debuts on February 20.

2002: Julia Wallace, Managing Editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since January 2001, becomes the first female Editor of the combined Journal-Constitution on July 1.

2003: The weekend starts on Thursday. accessAtlanta, a weekly entertainment and dining tabloid debuts on Thursday, April 24. Along with Movies & More, a broadsheet section premiering the following day, the two sections replace Weekend Preview.

January 2004: The Gwinnett community edition launches the Gwinnett Opinions page. Appearing Sundays and Thursdays in the Gwinnett section, the page offers letters to the Editor, guest columns, Voice of Gwinnett -- the text of discussions by a group of readers, and a local editorial cartoon. The forum debuts on January 25.

April 2004: John Mellott, Vice President and General Manager of the AJC from 1992 to 2000 is named Publisher. His first day is April 12. Roger Kintzel, Publisher from 1995 to 2004, becomes Senior Publisher of Cox Newspapers Inc.

Source: "The First 133 Years, History of The Constitution and The Journal," by Tom Bennett, 2001