Floor and Committee Statements

     MR. ISAKSON. Mr. President, Today, I am honored to recognize in the RECORD Mr. Robert M. Williams Jr., who recently retired after almost half a century as editor and publisher of The Blackshear Times in Blackshear, Georgia.

     While he may be a small-town newspaperman, Robert Williams is known throughout South Georgia and across much of our state because of his work ethic, his devotion to the printed word and his dedication to the newspaper business and what it means to a community. For more than 48 years, Robert has worked to be accurate, fair and to provide his readers with the news that affects them and the community they all cherish. He has personally written more than 2,000 columns during his career.

     It’s worth mentioning that the newspaper’s motto, printed at the top of the front page of the printed publication and online, is one Robert has also claimed as his own: “Liked by Many, Cussed by Some, Read by Them All.” With the weekly newspaper also turning 150 years this year under Robert’s leadership, both have long been widely read.

     At just 20 years old, Robert began his career at The Blackshear Times after coming down to the community from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. He was brought in by two legendary Georgians themselves, Roy Chalker Sr. and Wilkes Williams of Waynesboro, to turn their investment around. Turn it around he did, settling well into the community at the same time. A short five years later, Robert purchased The Blackshear Times. Under Robert’s leadership during the last 48 years, the newspaper has won hundreds of awards in a variety of categories.

     Robert and his wife Cheryl have both loyally and successfully served not only this publication, but the newspaper industry as a whole. The Blackshear Times is one of five newspapers that Robert and Cheryl have owned as part of their SouthFire Newspapers organization, which also includes The Alma Times, the Charlton County Herald, The Telfair Enterprise and the Monroe County Reporter in Georgia. Robert and Cheryl have both served as president of the Georgia Press Association, our state’s newspaper industry advocacy organization. Robert was also president of the 2,300-member National Newspaper Association in 2014, serving nationally as the voice of small-town newspapers.

     Locally, Robert Williams served two terms on the Blackshear City Council and served as executive director of both the Pierce County Industrial Development Authority and the Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. Robert is also a graduate of the Leadership Georgia program, an organization we both hold dear and that has guided our service to the state. Robert has found countless ways to give back. Whether it was as a member of the Georgia Agriculture Exposition Authority that governs the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry or the local college foundation board, Robert and Cheryl have made an impact well beyond Blackshear both professionally and personally.

     Last week, Robert announced the sale of The Blackshear Times, bidding farewell after one of the longest editorial tenures in Georgia. With his final column as editor and publisher, Robert was incredibly gracious, thanking his colleagues, employees, mentors and the fine bankers who gave him those first loans. I speak for all Georgians when I say ‘thank you’ to Robert and Cheryl for the difference you’ve made in our state. I count myself lucky to call you a friend, and Dianne and I wish you both the very best as you plan your future.

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