ActivePaper Archive Veteran, operated Dumas newspaper - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/15/2007

Melvin Schexnayder

Veteran, operated Dumas newspaper


Melvin Schexnayder earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Louisiana State University, but it never did him much good.

In the late 1940s, he worked as a chemical engineer for Texas Pacific Railroad for a year, but he had to travel a lot. So, he and his wife, Charlotte, decided they would try the newspaper business for a year — her area of study — just to see if they liked it.

They took jobs at The Mc-Gehee Semi-Weekly Times in 1948, Melvin as the advertising manager, Charlotte as the editor. Six years later, they bought their own newspaper, The Dumas Clarion, near Charlotte’s hometown of Tillar.

Melvin Schexnayder, 87, who owned and published The Clarion for 44 years, died Wednesday morning of complications from diabetes and heart disease.

Schexnayder, an Abbeville, La., native, called himself an Acadian — a descendant of 17th-century French colonists who settled Nova Scotia.

“He had a typical French family,” his wife said. “But he was more like a southeast Arkansan.”

Schexnayder was attending Louisiana State University when his ROTC unit was activated to fight in World War II.

He and his fellow ROTC members were training in Baton Rouge before shipping out when he went to a “newspaper party,” said his wife, who was editor of The Reveille (now The Daily Reveille), LSU’s school newspaper.

The couple began dating but put their relationship on hold when Schexnayder left the country to fight in the European Theater.

The couple married in 1946, upon his return from the war.

“They were one of those inseparable couples,” said Dennis Schick, former director of the Arkansas Press Association. “Charlotte was the front-person, so to speak, and Melvin was the business, advertising, publisher person. They were a team in every sense — both in life and professionally.”

Small-town newspapers are usually not lucrative endeavors, so the couple ran a little office-supply store in the front of their business.

“In a small town, you might not have the income from advertising you need, so doing things like taking passport photos or having an office supply shop was not unusual,” Schick said. “When a customer comes in and wants to put a wedding announcement in the paper, you can sell them wedding invitations and cards.”

Along with the newspaper and office supply business, Schexnayder and his wife served on the board of the Arkansas Press Association and each served as president. Schexnayder also was the state chairman for the National Newspaper Association, of which Charlotte became the first woman to serve as president. Charlotte also served seven terms as a state representative in the Arkansas Legislature, representing the Dumas area.

“It’s very difficult for a small newspaper to be active in the press association,” Schick said. “When you have a small staff, two people are a big portion to be gone. It was a major commitment on their part.”