And Now You Know: Arthur Lee Ford – Orange Leader Editor, Publisher, Owner in early 1900s

Published 8:35 am Saturday, April 28, 2018

By Mike Louviere

When Arthur Lee Ford came to Orange as a youngster, Orange had two newspapers, The Orange Weekly Leader, and the Orange Daily Tribune.

As a youngster, Ford became interested in the newspaper business and went to work for both papers, doing anything and everything he was asked to do. He eventually became managing editor of both papers under the ownership of Charles Rein. In 1902, Rein moved to Houston and sold the papers to Ford.

Ford partnered with J.L. Harris in the operation of the Orange Tribune and Leader Printing Plant. In 1911, he bought out Harris’ interest and became sole owner of both papers and the printing plant. Ford suffered several years of bad business, declared bankruptcy, sold all of his newspaper interest and moved to Houston to work for Charles Rein and Sons Publishers. At that time, Rein was publishing several weekly and monthly publications.

He became affiliated with the Southwestern Lumberman and the American Lumberman. At the time of his death in 1939, he was living in Chicago and was managing editor of the American Lumberman.

Ford was not an outstanding businessman, but he was one of the best writers to ever put ink to paper.

A statement in a local paper at the time of his death read: “Ford was regarded as being one of the most outstanding newspaper men in this section, his editorials in the Orange publications having been copied extensively throughout the country.”

Ford’s editorial column in the Orange papers were eagerly read and enjoyed. He had the knack for combining “hard news”, local interest, and humor in a very readable form. Ford could write about some serious local issue and in the next paragraph write about a friend’s mishap and bring guffaws to the readers.

His column from August 1909, is a good example of his talent.

“I had been sitting in the office hearing stories of great quantities of fish being caught on Sabine Lake. I decided to close the office and go fishing. Prof. Cohn was on the trip and told of great quantities of fish he had caught on a previous trip. Companion John Reading related that recently he had caught 400 fish. Capt. Charlie Davis told of catching fish so fast that he nearly did not have time to bait his hooks. Arriving home sunburned nearly to the point of blistering, and having dined only on sardines and salmon from a can, I am firmly convinced that it was either a bad day for fishing, or else all the prevaricators were not dead yet.

One very patriotic gentleman advised the Lady’s Civic Club that when the water lines are run to Anderson Park, he will pay for the water fountains and installation of said fountains. He stated that he felt the water fountains were a necessity for those who will be using the park.

Lake Charles is supporting the intercoastal canal between the Calcasieu and Sabine Rivers. The route is the one favored by the interests in Orange. Lake Charles also agreed that the canal needs to be 16 feet deep.

More dogs are running loose in Orange singly and in droves since the statement was made a few days ago that the dog tax law would be strictly enforced. We have more dogs per square foot in Orange than ever before.”

At one time in Orange there were two weekly papers and one daily paper serving a population of about 4,000. Newspapers were as much a source of entertainment as they were news sources. Writers who would put tongue in cheek as they wrote were popular in Orange. Ford was one of the best of his time.

“And now you know”