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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nina Goolsby (1920-2008)

Longtime EAGLE editor dies at 88

‘Nina’s Notebook’ column chronicled small-town life

By Lucy Schultze, Senior Staff Writer, The Oxford EAGLE, Oct. 8, 2008

The woman whose folksy writings and persuasive sales approach defined Oxford’s community newspaper for half a century died Tuesday night on her 88th birthday.

Nina Bunch Goolsby was editor and co-owner of The Oxford EAGLE from 1961 to 2006, and has since held the honorary title of editor emeritus.

“She was just an outstanding citizen,” said Don Waller, founder of Waller Funeral Home, who grew up near the Bunch family in the Burgess community in western Lafayette County.

“We were really proud of Nina, in the position she attained with the newspaper and the influence she had over the whole state through newspaper organizations,” Waller said. “She was involved in everything going on here in the days when she was really active.”

Talk of the town

Goolsby’s history with The EAGLE dates to 1942, when she started out in bookkeeping under editor Curtis Mullin. She soon became the society editor and later moved into advertising.

After a one-year departure to work as office manager for North Mississippi Savings and Loan, she purchased The EAGLE in 1961 along with partners Jesse Phillips and W.S. Featherston.

She continued to write her popular “Nina’s Notebook” column through the mid-1990s. With its blend of current events, folksy reminiscences and local color, it’s this daily column for which she’s best remembered across the Oxford community.

Looking back, “Nina’s Notebook” seems to capture a bygone era in Oxford, said longtime friend Lake Elliott.

“People looked forward to The EAGLE every day, because she wrote about all the parties, the club activities and everything that went on in Oxford,” she said. “We were like one big family back then.”

In the days when her husband, Richard “Dick” Elliott, was mayor of Oxford for three terms beginning in 1953, the Elliotts and Goolsbys often traveled together. The two women taught children’s Sunday School together at First Baptist Church in addition to the business relationship Goolsby cultivated with Elliott Jewelry.

“She came by about every day or two to see if I wanted to run an ad,” Lake Elliott said. “She was one of the best salespeople I knew. Before you knew it, you’d run up a great big bill with her.”

Community involvement

Far from the idea of journalist as dispassionate observer, “Miss Nina” did more than just chronicle daily life in her community — she worked to shape, guide and promote it.

She was involved in well over a dozen local clubs and organizations. A charter member of the Cosmopolitan Club, she was instrumental in efforts like the saving and moving of Cedar Oaks Heritage House, the antebellum home which once stood at the site of the Downtown Oxford Inn & Suites. She also helped launch and support the Oxford Pilgrimage tradition.

On a state level, she served appointments by Gov. Cliff Finch to the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, and by Gov. Bill Allain to the Mississippi Ethics Commission in the 1970s and ‘80s.

At home, her editorial leadership both in print and in person set a positive tone for the community, said longtime Oxford mayor John Leslie.

“She had a knack for politics, and she was always kind to people — even to people we knew she didn’t like,” he said. “She always looked on the bright side, and in doing editorials she was never hurtful to anybody.”

Her husband, the late J.C. Goolsby, served alongside Leslie on the Oxford Board of Aldermen. During his time at City Hall from 1973-97, Leslie often sought her help on important issues and found a supportive friend, he said.

“You could always depend on her being on the right side of every issue,” he said. “She was a force for what was progressive and good in the city.”

Funeral services are scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church, with burial to follow in Oxford Memorial Cemetery. Visitation is Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at Waller Funeral Home.

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