Through the eyes of a McIntosh

Alice Bell

Alice Bell

ALBANY -- Throughout her life, Alice Nall Bell has felt a strong connection to The Albany Herald.

That's understandable, given who she descended from.

In October of 1891, The Herald was founded by Henry M. McIntosh, Bell's great-grandfather. After his death in 1925, H.T. McIntosh -- his son and Bell's grandfather -- became editor and publisher of the paper.

Her mother, Martha McIntosh Nall, was once the society editor of the paper -- making for three generations of her family that worked at the publication.

As a result, she spent most of her early years at The Herald's office building. It was a time when fans were constantly running in the newsroom because there was no air conditioning. Her mother's office, along with her grandfather's, would get hot as the sun would set because they were facing the west.

Bell's family was also working at The Herald at a time in which the society editor, her mother, would be able to visit a bride's home and see the wedding dress as well as get to know her bridal party.

And, it was a time when it was easy to get to know everyone, Bell said.

"You would walk into the big room and everyone was there," she recalled of the newsroom setting. "The teletype machines were there, and in the back was the printing presses.

"I used to run up the steep steps laughing with friends of mine. I just felt like I grew up at The Herald office."

Bell's father died when she was young, so during her childhood, she lived at the McIntosh home on Tift Avenue.

"H.T., my grandfather, I called Daddy because my father died when I was 2 years old," she said. "He was like a father to me."

The Herald started out as an afternoon paper. Her grandfather was still overseeing the publication when the Pearl Harbor attacks devastated the U.S. Navy on Dec. 7, 1941.

"When that happened, everyone had to go in and get the paper out," she recalled of that day.

As it did for the 9/11 attacks, The Herald printed a special edition that day as the assault from Japan was ongoing.

Bell's youth was a time before television or Internet, so the newspaper was the primary source for information in the community.

It was also a time that downtown was buzzing with activity. The Herald was no exception.

"We used to go down there all the time and visit the drug stores and shops on Washington and Pine," Bell said. "(At The Herald) the business offices were all downstairs, but at the time, you knew everybody -- downstairs or upstairs."

For their contributions to the community inside the newsroom and out, the McIntoshes were widely respected.

"People would talk to my grandfather about the paper," Bell said. "My family was very involved. Everyone was involved, and newspaper people were involved and respected in a number of areas."

"Newspapers back then were the hub where people would talk."

Bell said her family seemed to feel good about what the publication was doing for the community, and would hopefully feel the same way about the paper today.

Bell said her late relatives would have to adjust to changes in the industry.

"I think it would be so different that they couldn't take it in," she said. "The whole world is so different.

"I think my grandfather would be supportive."

Bell, a graduate of the University of Georgia, had initially planned to become a fourth-generation newspaper employee.

"I majored in journalism in college, but I got married and never did anything with it," she said. "I had to do something, and it seemed like the logical thing to do.

"A lot of girls didn't think of a career then, but I thought I would work for the paper."

Even though she ended up not following in the footsteps of the previous three generations, Bell said she is proud to be a member of the family that brought The Herald to Albany.

"I'm very proud of my family heritage being with The Albany Herald. The Herald was like a part of my family," she said. "I'm always interested in what they do. I'm not connected now, but I still feel an interest.

"For a small town paper, it's a great paper. I think all of my family would be proud. I can't imagine not having my Albany Herald every morning with my coffee."

H.M. McIntosh came to Albany in 1877 at the age of 25 from Quitman to launch a weekly paper for Welch and Mitchell, a prominent business firm at the time. He spent his early life in Thomas and Brooks counties. He established the Quitman Free Press that same year, and Welch and Mitchell made him an offer that eventually brought him to Albany as the editor of The Advertiser.

Before the Quitman Free Press was even a year old, H.M. Macintosh sold it. In 1878, he bought The Albany News and The Advertiser -- which were consolidated into The News and Advertiser. He sold the publication in 1890 with the intention of getting out of the newspaper business, but was eventually encouraged to get back into Albany journalism.

That was when The Herald was born. H.T. McIntosh joined the firm four years later, and in 1946, he opted to sell his controlling interests in the Herald Publishing Company to James H. Gray.