Joseph H. Weston

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Joseph H. Weston
Born(1911-08-06)August 6, 1911
DiedNovember 15, 1983(1983-11-15) (aged 72)
Poplar Bluff, Butler County
Missouri, USA
ResidenceCave City, Sharp County, Arkansas
OccupationNewspaper editor
Political partyRepublican primary candidate for governor of Arkansas, 1974 and 1976

Joseph H. Weston (August 6, 1911 – November 15, 1983)[1] was a controversial newspaper editor in Cave City in Sharp County in northern Arkansas, whose work led to a change in his state's libel law.

In 1974, Weston was convicted of criminal libel for an article in his mimeographed newspaper about a sheriff. The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned a jail sentence and a fine on grounds that the state libel law failed to include truth as a defense or to require proof of malice in the case of false statements about public officials.[2] The Weston case is similar to a 1931 issue before the United States Supreme Court -- Near v. Minnesota -- in which the tribunal forbade Minnesota officials from closing an unpopular newspaper of the editor Jay M. Near.[3]

Weston, who called himself "Editor Weston", was a maverick Republican who in 1974 and 1976 sought nomination for governor of Arkansas. In 1974, he opposed the party's consensus choice of Ken Coon, its losing candidate for lieutenant governor in 1972 on the ticket headed by Len Blaylock of Perry County. Republicans tried to keep Weston off the state ballot on grounds that he was not a "registered" Republican. Though voters in Arkansas do not register by party, officials of the party must designate their affiliation and become an automatic member of the Republican executive committee. Weston said that the registration requirement could not possibly have applied to him, for he was merely a voter seeking to run for governor in the party of his choice. Weston said that he had voted in 1972 for Richard M. Nixon, the first Republican presidential candidate to win Arkansas' electoral votes since Ulysses S. Grant but had since regretted having done so. Weston had to get a court order to force the GOP to accept his filing papers. The Republican leadership opposed Weston because of his strident criticism of many elected officials, whom he accused of "moral rot" and demanded mass resignations. Weston said that he was running as a Republican because "we need someone to heal the wounds of the party instead of just wounding the heels."[4]

Weston lost the nomination, in which fewer than five thousand voted statewide: Coon received 3,698 votes (81.9 percent) to Weston's 815 ballots (18.1 percent). Weston's running mate for lieutenant governor, an African American named Andrew Bearden, lost by a similar margin to Leona Troxell, a former Winthrop Rockefeller partisan from Rose Bud in White County.[5]

In 1976, Weston opposed the Pine Bluff (later North Little Rock) plumber Leon Griffith for the gubernatorial nomination.[6] Griffith prevailed in the primary, 15,500 (59.5 percent) to Weston's 10,540 (40.5 percent).[7] Griffith was then crushed in the general election by Democrat incumbent David H. Pryor, who had won his first term in 1974 by defeating Ken Coon. In that same election, Jimmy Carter of Georgia won Arkansas by nearly a 2-1 margin over the Republican nominee, U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Jr.

Weston served in the military and died at the age of seventy-two in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Joseph H. Weston, Publisher of an Arkansas Newspaper". The New York Times, November 19, 1983. November 19, 1983. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  3. ^ Fred W. Friendly, Minnesota Rag: Corruption, Yellow Journalism, and the Case That Saved Freedom of the Press, New York: Random House, 1981
  4. ^ Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, May 18, 1974, p. 1294.
  5. ^ State of Arkansas, Secretary of State, Primary election returns, 1974.
  6. ^ Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, May 15, 1976, p. 1220
  7. ^ State of Arkansas, Secretary of State, General election returns, 1976