By Wayne Gates
Editor, Brown County Press
William C. “Bill” Latham was the owner and publisher of the Clermont Sun and the Brown County Press for over 40 years.
He died on August 7 at age 84 after a fall at home.
Mr. Latham touched many lives during his time as a publisher, employer, father and friend. While standard journalism practice calls for him to be referred to as “Latham” from this point forward, I can’t do that after coming to know the man myself. So I’m going to break the rules and call him “Bill”.
His partner in business and life was his wife, Mary Pat Latham. She said that there were two things that Bill was very proud of when he looked back at his professional life. One was keeping the legacy of the Clermont Sun alive. Bill purchased the Sun in 1971 and it is currently in its 190th year of serving the public in Clermont County.
Bill’s other pride and joy was the Brown County Press, which Bill made the commitment to start in 1973.
In 2007, the Ohio Newspaper Association recognized the Clermont Sun and the Latham family with its “First Families of Ohio Newspapers” Award.
Mary Pat also thanked the many employees who worked for Bill for years, some of them for a large part of their lives, returning the loyalty he showed to them.
Bill graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1956 and his early days were spent at newspapers in Louisville and Maysville, KY, where he met and eventually married Mary Pat. As his career progressed, he worked his way to Washington, D.C., working as a photo editor for National Geographic magazine.
Bill bought the Clermont Sun in 1971. With the paper came a steep learning curve. He was now an independent businessman, responsible for learning everything about the newspaper business.
Bill made a few big gambles in those early days.
Shortly afterward, he took another chance and began the Brown County Press in 1973, which involved hiring more staff members and buying more raw material. The gamble paid off, with the Press still in publication today.
Another big move was to buy the building at 465 North Main where the Clermont Sun Publishing Company remains today.
Mary Pat said that Bill was very proud to be able to provide a weekly newspaper so local citizens could keep up with the news in their community.
Tony Adams, the current publisher of the Clermont Sun and the Brown County Press, began working for Bill just after graduating high school.
“I had the honor of working for Mr. Latham for 32 years. He was not just my employer, but also my friend. I had the privilege of watching Mr. Latham build The Clermont Sun to a full service publishing company,” Adams said.
He continued, “I have seen him go through the ups and downs of running the company and I know he went home many evenings concerned about the company and the employees. I appreciate the opportunities and advice he has given me over the years. There are many fond memories of Mr. Latham and The Clermont Sun that I will keep for the rest of my life.”
At Bill’s funeral mass at Holy Trinity Church in Batavia, attendees heard about the different sides of the man that always had a smile for them. The following are excerpts from the eulogy.
“Bill Latham was plenty smart, but that’s not why he is special.
What made him special—no, what made him unforgettable—was the essential goodness of his heart.
From an early age, Bill put others before himself, starting with his younger sister, Jean. Growing up in the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville, Bill taught Jean to ride a bike and change a flat, took her trick-or-treating on Halloween, and swam all of the way across the Ohio River next to her when Jean was training for a big swimming race.”
The eulogy continued, “Bill served his community. When the Lathams arrived here in 1971, he joined the Rotary Club, and subsequently contributed to countless projects designed to make Batavia a better place. He rang Christmas bells for the Salvation Army, brought turkeys to the poor at Thanksgiving, helped build parks in the village, and hosted a Rotary exchange student for four months. He served as Rotary Club president from 1974 to 1975, but his greatest contribution was probably his extended service in charge of the speakers’ program. Although the Club met at 7 AM on Saturday mornings, Bill managed to find engaging speakers every week, from State representatives to NFL linemen.”
Those present also got a picture of the family man.
“He was a loving husband, a caring brother, an attentive son to both his parents and his mother-in-law, and a proud and patient father. He was never too busy for his family. While his parents still lived in Louisville, Bill made countless trips down I-71 to spend time with them, and he was a constant lunch companion to his mother once she relocated to Clermont County. When his own kids were small, Bill always made time to take them swimming and to ball games and movies. And when grandchildren entered the picture, Bill Latham became the most doting grandparent you’ve ever seen.”
Finally, mourners were left with this thought.
“Bill Latham was indeed blessed with a good heart, and that goodness permeated every aspect of his life. While he did not cure cancer, break a world record, or win a gold medal, his essential goodness made him special, and set an example for us to follow. That decency and kindness touched all of us, and it is what we will remember long after we walk out these church doors. We have shed tears these past few days because of our loss, but through the tears, let’s also remember to celebrate the goodness of this man.”
Angie Allen, who worked for Bill for almost 40 years, remembered him this way.
“I enjoyed working for him. He was very easy to work for. He taught me a lot. I have to say that I learned my work ethic from him…customers first, and you are always honest with them. He helped Clermont and Brown counties to grow by bringing local news to the community.”
Daniel Haglage, a friend and Rotary Club member also reflected on Mr. Latham.
“Bill was a pillar of the community. He was truly a friend to all who knew him. He did a fantastic job keeping an eye on the community and the county. He was held in high regard by everyone he associated with.”
Batavia Village Administrator Dennis Nichols was also in the newspaper business at the time that Bill purchased the Clermont Sun. Nichols was the publisher of the Mt. Washington Press in Hamilton County.
“The Latham’s gave continuity and stability to the community by having the Clermont Sun and by living here. The community was stronger for having them here,” Nichols said.
“Bill was a dedicated citizen of America and of Batavia. I had the highest regard for him. I had the chance to have lunch with him about once a month. He was a community builder.”
Bill Latham Jr. spoke about how his father came to be in the newspaper business.
“He was working a good job for a good paycheck working in Washington, D.C. for National Geographic as a photography editor. But he had a strong desire to own his own business,” Latham, Jr. said.
“He wanted to be close to his parents and my mothers parents and buying a community newspaper in Clermont County was a good compromise because it was close to his parents in Louisville and my mother’s parents in Maysville, Kentucky.”
Latham Jr. said that his father took a big gamble with the move.
“Buying a newspaper in a small town in what was then a rural county was a risk for someone with no experience running a business or with advertising. He had to learn how to produce a newspaper, how to manage a business and he had to learn how to sell advertising.”
But once the business was up and running, all of the Latham children had the opportunity to call Bill “boss” as well as “dad”.
“All three kids worked as hired hands down in the basement doing inserts for the paper as they came off the press,” Latham Jr. said.
“When I first started working at the age of nine, I was making a quarter an hour but that was pretty big money. A quarter would buy five Reece’s cups at the Ben Franklin store, so a quarter an hour was nothing to sneeze at in 1971.”
He added that his dad never let the pressures of business affect him at home.
“He was always in a good mood. He was always cheerful, always setting a good example. As a father, he always had time for us. He always made time to help us with our homework. He always made time to take us to movies or baseball games. He set a great example for all of us as a parent.”
Those who miss Bill the most include his wife, Mary Patrick Latham, his children, William C. Latham, Jr. (Cindy) of Colonial Heights, Virginia, Elizabeth P. Jenks (Steve) of Castle Rock, Colorado, and Patrick C. Latham (Amber) of Batavia, Ohio, his sister, Jean Latham Robertson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his brother, Sidney Latham of Lexington, Kentucky.
Mr. Latham is also survived by four grandchildren: Andrew and Olivia Latham, Nicholas Latham, and Alexander Jenks.
Scott Champion, who Bill entrusted the papers to, had this reaction to the loss of Bill.
“I was saddened to hear about the sudden passing of Mr. Latham. I am proud to honor his memory by continuing to publish the Clermont Sun and the Brown County Press.”
As he was a newspaperman for over 40 years, it’s only fair to give Bill the last word. Bill wrote the following letter in October of 2015 after selling the papers to Champion.
“To the Readers, Advertisers and Staff of The Clermont Sun:
The Clermont Sun has been sold. The new owner is MCM Media LLC, whose CEO is Scott Champion, a veteran newspaper owner and executive.
The Sun enjoys a place of historical significance in the Clermont community. Its record of continuous publication since 1828 is one that few other newspapers in Ohio can claim.
The Sun also enjoys a reputation for quality, and is the winner of dozens of awards from the Ohio Newspaper Association. When I think of those awards, the name of one columnist stands out: Rosanna Hoberg, humorist, friend and one who loved the newspaper.
Now, after 44 years as publisher, I’d like to extend my sincere appreciation to the newspaper’s readers and advertisers for their support.
To members of The Sun staff, much credit and gratitude goes to you for your hard work and achievements through the years.
Special thanks to Tony Adams, who has been with the paper for over 32 years and has filled the role of CEO with loyalty and dedication, and to Dianna Fischer, who has done an outstanding job as the company’s financial officer. It has been a privilege to work with all of you.
Scott Champion, I wish you success. You have a great team and a fine community to serve.”
The Clermont Sun