About Jack Tarver

last modified 2019-07-29T14:41:41-04:00


Jack TarverJackson Williams Tarver practiced journalism at every level, rising from editor of a country weekly to publisher of a metro daily to chairman of an international wire service.

Tarver was born March 2, 1917, in Savannah, the only son of banker and hotelier Otis M. Tarver and deLuth Williams Tarver. In 1938, he graduated from Mercer University in Macon with a degree in journalism and began his professional career at The Vidalia Advance. He started The Toombs County Democrat in Lyons in 1939.

One of Tarver's columns on the film, "Gone With the Wind," in which he described Rhett Butler as a cross between Jesse James and Little Boy Blue, and Scarlett O'Hara as "changeable as a baby's underwear" earned him national recognition. The column was widely reprinted in papers across the state and led to a job at The Macon News. His humor columns attracted the attention of Ralph McGill, editor of The Atlanta Constitution, who persuaded Tarver to leave his job as editor of The Macon News and join the Atlanta paper in 1943. In his first column, he wrote these words: "I am, by way of background, a Georgian by birth, a Methodist by sprinkling, and a Roosevelt man out of obstinacy."

Tarver was named assistant to the president of Atlanta Newspapers Inc. in 1950 when the Journal and Constitution came under the same ownership. He was made the general manager of the corporation in 1952. During his tenure with Atlanta Newspapers, he held a variety of leadership positions, including vice president from 1956-57, president from 1957-58 and publisher from 1958 to 1976.

He served as vice-chairman of Atlanta Newspapers' parent company, Cox Enterprises Inc., from 1976 to 1983. He also served as chairman of the Associated Press from 1977 to 1983.

In addition to his humor columns, Tarver was most known in journalism circles for standing between McGill and hateful opponents of McGill's controversial front-page columns calling for racial moderation. Tarver has been credited with putting the Atlanta Newspapers in the financial position to be able to withstand the firestorm surrounding McGill's columns, which won a Pulitzer Prize.

Tarver was a member of the American Society of Newspaper Publishers, serving as chairman of the Bureau of Advertising from 1962-64 and president of the society from 1976-77. He was also a member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists.

Outside of journalism, Tarver served as chairman and director of Theaters Service Co. and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He was also a director of Southern Bell, American Motors, and Maccabees Mutual Insurance Co. He was a member of the state Board of Education from 1942-43 and served as a Trustee of Mercer University. In 1979, he was awarded the humanitarian of the year award by the Institute for Human Relations.

Jack Tarver died at his home in Buckhead on March 22, 1999.

Photos of The Jack Tarver Room, which replicates Mr. Tarver's office, are available online.

In addition to the Jack Tarver Room, a number of other areas in the library have been named for specific people.