Norman A. Mott Jr. dies


Norman A. Mott Jr., whose family guided this newspaper for three generations, died last Thursday.

Mr. Mott was born March 23, 1924 in Yazoo City to Mary Margaret Luckett Mott and Norman A. Mott Sr. He was the grandson of the late Norman Albert Mott and Susannah Everett Mott.

His grandfather first came to New Orleans in the 1870s looking for work as a journalist and printer, but traveled on to Vicksburg after being unable to find a job. He later found work at The Yazoo Sentinel, which had been established in 1873 in Satartia, but was later moved to Yazoo City via barge. That set the stage for a successful career that would become a family tradition.

As a child, Norman Mott Jr. thought he would venture outside the family newspaper business.

At age 12, he started his first job with The Yazoo City Herald. From delivering papers to handling gin tickets, he did a little of everything in the newspaper world.

Looking back, he said he may have wanted to do something else. But by then it was too late.

“I was born into it,” he said in a 2011 interview.

One can’t mention the history of Yazoo newspapers without thinking about the Mott family. It is a fascinating journey through the business itself, and the Mott family has been in it since the early 1900s.

Speaking with Mr. Mott about the course of his life, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to drift into the newspaper world. It’s almost as if the two subjects belong together.

“The Herald is really one of the oldest businesses in Yazoo County,” Norman said. “My grandfather bought it in 1914 before he died in 1920, which is when my daddy took it over.”

The first Norman Mott purchased The Yazoo City Herald from J.G. McGuire on Jan. 1, 1914. He served as both editor and publisher until he died on July 16, 1920. His wife, Susanna, then took over the business as publisher. Norman’s father, Norman Mott, was named editor of the newspaper

It wasn’t long before young Norman joined the team. On his first day, he can remember there was a heavy hail storm.

“I have never seen a hail storm that bad,” he said. “The hail was the size of golf balls. I thought it was the end of the world.”

But Norman continued to deliver newspapers that late afternoon.

Norman said he can remember the family business entering the world of commercial printing.

“Back then, the farmers had gin tickets,” Norman said. “They made books with tickets in them that followed the cotton from the gins to the warehouses. As children, we assembled those tickets.”

During the Great Depression, many Yazooans couldn’t afford newspaper subscriptions. Norman said the paper developed a “trade out” policy, accepting anything from vegetables to live chickens to dry goods for the news.

“School supplies, notebooks, pencils and ink pen points were gleefully greeted by the Mott kids,” Norman said.

Norman said he eventually became a carrier, delivering newspaper twice a week up until World War II.

“As a carrier, I walked and delivered the papers,” Norman said. “As a carrier, you paid so much for a paper, sold it and kept a percentage. Zig Ziglar (nationally known motivational speaker) was a carrier too.”

Norman soon switched from walking to driving, delivering newspapers all over Yazoo County from Benton to Vaughan to Satartia and other rural communities.

“That is how I learned to drive, and I never had a wreck,” he laughed. “It was always on gravel roads. There were a lot of cows and pigs in the roads. And it was always at night.”

Norman began his college education at the University of Mississippi in the summer of 1942. But it wasn’t long before he joined the Air Army Corps in 1943. Like most young men at the time, his time in the military service had begun.

“They told me I was too skinny,” Norman said. “I think they must have started losing pilots because I ate a lot of bananas, went back and passed.”

It didn’t take long for Norman to realize that being a pilot must not have been his calling.

“They didn’t like the way I flew,” he laughed. “They said I was too free spirited, sloppy and dangerous to myself and everybody else.”

Norman then went onto navigation school and was the top of this class. Coming out of the services, he returned to Ole Miss. He earned his journalism degree in 1948.

Norman returned to Yazoo City that same year and took his place back at the family business.

“This was in time for the biggest, community building event ever in Yazoo – the coming of Mississippi Chemical Corporation, the world’s largest farmer-owned nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing plant,” Norman said.

Other big stories with The Herald involved local politics. In its Main Street office, the newspaper provided instant voting results.

“The results were shown to the sidewalk crowd watching a screen, made by sewing four double bedsheets together which were hung over the upper part of Ratner’s across the street from the Herald building,” he said.

Voting results were shown from dark Tuesday until dawn on Wednesday.

“It was two long days of continuous work, but The Herald readers got all the local and state election news fresh up to the minute,” Norman said.

It has always been about the readers getting the best news first in Yazoo City for the Mott family. From wire news to local stories, Norman was eager to get it out.

“You still have to have the local news,” Norman said. “That is what it is all about.”

Norman may have wanted to do something different at one time in his life. But there was no getting away from the newspaper world for him.

Looking back, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“You get to know people,” he said. “It’s like you are somebody. A lot of people know you. Some can’t help but know you. That’s good to know.”

You can say journalism has been in Norman’s blood all along or that he was born in it. But one thing is certain...he’s not going anywhere.

“You know what they say happens when you get that ink on your hands,” Norman said, looking down at the palm of his hands. “Once it gets on you, you can’t ever get it off.”