‘He will be missed’
When Jim Mayo was awarded the H. Milt Phillips Award by the Oklahoma Press Association, the 1st Extraordinary Session of the the 47th Legislature Enrolled Senate and concurrent House of Representatives honored him with Resolution 1X.
The Legislature commended Mayo on winning the H. Milt Phillips award, which recognizes those who serve their family, community, county and newspapers of Oklahoma. The award honors an individual whose peers recognize in the recipient the qualities of H. Milt Phillips, the long-time publisher of the Seminole Producer.
Jim Mayo passed away Thursday (Oct. 3) and many on social media have said he will be missed, but it likely will not be just his contribution to journalism that will be missed, but his contribution to his community and county as well.
His accomplishments in the civic arena are no less impressive and recognized and the two were often intermingled. He was an aggressive journalist which often put him crossways of his friends and, sometimes, cost the newspaper in advertising dollars.
In hearing of Mayo's passing, former Sallisaw City Manager Lloyd Haskins commented about his “friend.”
“When I had the privilege of being city manager for 12 years, I communicated with Jim Mayo and his staff every week on projects and the actions and activities of the city council and city staff of the City of Sallisaw,” Haskins said. “On many occasions Jim and I disagreed, sometimes quite strongly, but you always knew that he was supporting a view that he felt was in the best interest of the citizens, the city and the county.
“He not only was a newspaper journalist, he was a very strong supporter of the area and community, and donated many hours and days for community functions of the chamber and other organizations. I, personally, will miss Jim and the many discussions that we had, but he was always a friend to me and my family, and was steadfast in his beliefs for a better Sallisaw and Democrat party.”
Many of Mayo's accomplishments are included in his full obituary on page A2, but some may bear repeating here.
He was a 1960 graduate of Sallisaw High School and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, but he already had some experience working under his parents Wheeler and Florence Mayo, who founded the Sequoyah County Times in 1932.
In 1965, he wed Becky Ann Boen, to whom he was married for 54 years. After getting married, he went on to serve in the United States Navy before returning in 1967 to become managing editor and associate publisher of the Sequoyah County Times. He served as publisher of Your TIMES from 1986 to 2016 before retiring and becoming president of Cook-son Hills Publishers, Inc.
While his list of professional associations can be seen in his obituary, it might be worth noting his civic interests.
Mayo was the first non-lawyer member of the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints. He served on the board of directors of the Oklahoma Historical Society and as president of the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce and the Sallisaw Lions Club. He was always active in Boy Scouts of America and received the Boys Scouts Adult Scout Leader Award and the Silver Beaver Award for Distinguished Service to Youth. He served as district chairman of the Indian Nation Council Boy Scouts of America. Both of his sons, Jack and Jeff, attained the rank of Eagle Scout.
When you talk to those who knew him, the first thing mentioned was his laugh and sense of humor.
“I met Jim and his brother, Dick, in 1978. They, along with their sister Andrea, sold me Times Office Products,” Gus Perry, owner of Perry's Office Supply, said. “I think Jim and Dick giggled a little bit when they handed me the key. Jim's distinguishable laugh could be heard every time he read the John Ruskin sign I have about paying too little or paying too much for a product, he would add the line, 'Price Gougers Prayer,' and his laugh.”
He was also persuasive when it came to recruiting other volunteers or drumming up funds for some special city project.
“When Jim learned we had similar interests in hiking and camping, he approached me about leading an Explorer Scout Troop in Sallisaw,” Roy Faulkenberry, Your TIMES editor, said. “Who was I to turn down the boss. Needless to say, Sallisaw had its first-ever Explorer Troop. Jim took pity on a hungry young man needing a job and hired me a few weeks before I graduated college in 1977. He and Dick welcomed me to the 'Sequoyah County Times School of Journalism' as they put it.
“I spent my first eight years under his leadership and was exposed to every type of writing you would think a journalist would do, everything from writing obits to tracking down wrongdoing in the courthouse. His mantra was always fairness and 'accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.'
“That first stint under Jim lasted eight years before I moved on to another newspaper, but here it is 44 years later, and I've come full circle. While he wasn't involved in the day-to-day operation of the paper when I was rehired by his son Jeff, his presence was always felt, and his advice respected and adhered to,” Faulkenberry said.
When that 47th Legislature commended Mayo for receiving the H. Milt Phillips Award, the resolution had this to say, which sums up much of his life:
“Jim Mayo was chosen as recipient of this award based on his publication of a high-quality newspaper and contribution to his profession and the newspaper industry; his many years of service to the community, state and nation in a variety of volunteer activities and his strong love and dedication to his family.”
The most common comment of those who knew him and heard of his passing was, “He will be missed.”