Tom Gish

Last updated
Tom Gish
Born(1926-01-28)January 28, 1926
Seco, Kentucky, USA
Died November 21, 2008(2008-11-21) (aged 82)
Whitesburg, Kentucky, USA
Occupation Newspaper reporter and editor
Alma mater University of Kentucky
Notable works The Mountain Eagle
Notable awards Zenger Award, 1974
Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award, 1983
Environmental Policy Institute's Recognition for Coverage of Coalfields Issues, 1987
Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award, 2002
Spouse Pat Gish

Tom Gish (January 28, 1926 – November 21, 2008) was an American newspaper reporter and editor, best known for his work as the owner and co-editor of The Mountain Eagle weekly newspaper alongside his wife, Pat Gish, in Whitesburg, the county seat of Letcher County, Kentucky, where his paper was the first in the eastern part of the state to challenge the damage caused to the environment resulting from strip mining. [1]

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

The Mountain Eagle is a local weekly newspaper published in Whitesburg, Kentucky. It is the main newspaper of Letcher County, Kentucky and one of the primary newspapers of Eastern Kentucky.

Pat Gish

Pat Gish was an American journalist, publisher and co-editor of the Whitesburg, Kentucky newspaper The Mountain Eagle, along with her husband, Tom Gish. The Gishes led The Mountain Eagle in covering controversial topics such as the effects of strip mining on the Appalachian environment and political corruption. Under the Gishes' guidance, The Mountain Eagle became a prominent rural newspaper, and the pair won many awards for their journalism. Gish also founded the Eastern Kentucky Housing Development Corporation and worked to improve living conditions in Eastern Kentucky.


Early life and education

Gish was a native of Seco, a coal camp near Whitesburg. He met his wife Pat while the two attended the University of Kentucky, where they both worked on The Kentucky Kernel , the school's student publication. Before purchasing the newspaper in 1956, Gish was the bureau chief in Frankfort, Kentucky for United Press International. His wife had been a reporter for The Lexington Leader (which later merged to become the Lexington Herald-Leader ). [2]

Seco, Kentucky Unincorporated community in Kentucky, United States

Seco is an unincorporated community in Letcher County, Kentucky, United States. Located in the eastern part of the state, it lies about 6 miles (9 km) E of Whitesburg. The area was inhabited in the late 19th century, but did not receive a post office until 1915: the name derives from the South East Coal Company, which owned the land. The mines are now defunct, although a small mine may still be visited, to some extent, about 500 feet from the center of town. The main business is the small Highland Winery, established in the mid‑1990s. Tom Gish, longtime publisher of The Mountain Eagle weekly newspaper in nearby Whitesburg, was born in Seco.

Whitesburg, Kentucky City in Kentucky, United States

Whitesburg is a home rule-class city in and the county seat of Letcher County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 2,139 at the 2010 census. It was named for C. White, a state politician.

University of Kentucky Public research university in Lexington, KY, USA

The University of Kentucky (UK) is a public co-educational university in Lexington, Kentucky. Founded in 1865 by John Bryan Bowman as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky, the university is one of the state's two land-grant universities, the largest college or university in the state, with 30,720 students as of Fall 2015, and the highest ranked research university in the state according to U.S. News and World Report.

Owner/editor of The Mountain Eagle

After purchasing the newspaper, the motto was changed from "A Friendly Non-Partisan Weekly Newspaper Published Every Thursday" to "It Screams". [1]

For a period of time, the newspaper's reporters were banned from attending school board and fiscal court meetings. Their efforts to ensure that they could attend and keep those meetings available to the public and press led to passage of Kentucky's open meeting and open records legislation. [1]

An August 1974 firebombing destroyed $17,000 worth of the newspaper's equipment, doing only light structural damage to its facility, yet the local police department placed a condemnation order on the building. [3] A police officer paid to have the building burnt down, after the paper had published articles criticizing treatment of youths by the local police force. Gish said that he had discovered that a coal company had funded the money to pay for the arson. The paper was published the next week, this time with the motto "It Still Screams". [1] After several years of publishing under the masthead of "It Still Screams", the Mountain Eagle returned to its motto of "It Screams", which still remains in use.

The Mountain Eagle has a long and distinguished history of speaking out for coal mine safety and protecting the land and people of eastern Kentucky from the ravages of strip mining.


The Kentucky -based Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues created the Tom and Pat Gish Award in 2005 to recognize rural journalists who "demonstrate courage, tenacity and integrity." The Gishes were honored by the Society of Professional Journalists with the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. They also received the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in 1983 and were profiled among "100 American Heroes" in a 1986 Special Issue of Newsweek. Pat and Tom were also profiled in Studs Terkel's 1983 book "American Dreams: Lost and Found" concerning their work as publishers of a small-town newspaper. Tom Gish received the Zenger Award from the University of Arizona in 1974 (between Katharine Graham of the Washington Post (1973) and Seymour Hersh of the New York Times (1975)). He was twice honored in the name of Elijah Parish Lovejoy—once from the University of Arizona (1975), and later from Colby College (2001). He also received the Environmental Policy Institute's Recognition for Coverage of Coalfields Issues in 1987. [1]

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), formerly known as Sigma Delta Chi, is the oldest organization representing journalists in the United States. It was established on April 17, 1909 at DePauw University, and its charter was designed by William Meharry Glenn.

Gish died at age 82 on November 21, 2008, after having experienced kidney failure and heart problems. [1]

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