The Herald has been in business since 1947. The first issue was published by original owners and founders Jack and Mattie Kate Dudley on February 7, 1947.
Jack Dudley, just out of the military as an Army officer, had discovered the area while driving around Florida looking for a suitable place to buy or start a newspaper. He had stopped to buy a Coke at a local business and church chimes were ringing. He thought it was so peaceful that he went home to Birmingham, Alabama and told his wife Mattie Kate how much he liked it here in Gadsden County.
They decided to start their newspaper here and put their University of Alabama journalism degrees to work.
Mattie Kate’s father, Fred Harris, took a leave of absence from the Birmingham News to help with the production of the paper until George McEwen of Ocean Springs, Mississippi came on as a partner responsible for setting type and operating printing equipment.
They operated the newspaper until 1972, when they decided to sell The Herald but retain Havana Publishing Company, a commercial printing operation they had begun at the same time they’d started publishing the newspaper.
A small group of investors from Bainbridge, Georgia, who were associated with that city’s newspaper, The Post Searchlight, bought The Herald. The investment group included Sam Griffin, Floyd Dean and Jim Bonn. They named their corporation Priority News, Inc.
Jim Bonn also eventually bought the Havana Publishing Company in 1977 when the Dudleys decided to retire for good.
Steve Trosley, who came from Missouri, was the first editor hired by the new owners. A year later he left and in September 1973 was replaced by Nick Bert. Bert was a local and had just earned a journalism degree from the University of Florida. In 1985 he bought the controlling interest in Priority News, Inc. and The Herald from the investment group and in 1992 he bought the Havana Publishing Company from Jim Bonn, uniting the two companies again.
Bonn remained as an employee and is still the manager of the printing operation.
The Herald has occupied several buildings during its existence. In 1980 it moved to its present location at 103 W. 7th Avenue in Havana, Florida. Havana Publishing and its retail outlet, Havana Printing & Office Supply, is located next door at 105 W. 7th. Avenue.
Bert continued as publisher and owner of The Herald until May 31, 2017, when he sold Priority News, Inc., the corporation that owns both the paper and the printing operation, to Mark Pettus, a veteran reporter, editor and publisher in St. Augustine, Florida.
Pettus, a native New Mexican, moved to Gadsden County from St. Augustine, where he had been publisher of a group of six community newspapers and several magazines. He and his partner, Colleen Sperry, now live in rural Havana in an area known as “Coon Bottom” to locals.
The Herald continues to be published every week on Thursday and delivered by the U.S. mail to homes and businesses across Gadsden County and around the world.