November 10, 2021

Mississippi journalism legend Ray Mosby dies at 70

Therese Apel

Ray Mosby
Ray Mosby

Ray Mosby was one of the good ones.

As a journalist, he was brave and unwavering — asking the hard questions, bringing truth to power, daily choosing integrity over approval. He was an old-school journalist’s journalist. He was the definition of what real journalism is, and who a journalist should be.

As a man, he was funny and quick-witted. Old fashioned in some ways, he was never afraid to learn something new. He loved his family, the people of the Delta, and Mississippi as a state.

The editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot was fighting an illness that had him hospitalized, and on Tuesday night his daughter, Logan George, posted the breaking news nobody wanted. It was a simple post, but it brought out so many emotions and tributes to a man known for his work, but loved for his heart and his courage.

“Harold Ray Mosby, Jr. 1951-2001.”

Layne Bruce, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Press Association, posted a tribute to the intrepid newspaper man.

“Ray Mosby was a gentleman and a scholar — and there are few of them left. He was either a fierce friend or a dogged, wily opponent. There was no middle ground,” Bruce wrote. “Though diminutive in physical presence, he loomed large in every room he entered. He was a fine community journalist. And he is someone I’ll remember fondly but miss mightily for the rest of my days on the Earth.”

Former Daily Leader Publisher Bill Jacobs, who serves on the board of directors of the National Newspaper Association Foundation and is a past president of the Mississippi Press Association, commented, “A sad day for Mississippi journalism. Ray was the consummate small town newspaperman. Oh boy will we miss him!”

Bruce’s post quickly filled with condolences and memories from so many noteworthy journalists from all over the state.

“I don’t have adequate words to describe him. So much talent and integrity and fierceness and caring. The most unique editorial voice in the state. He will be missed,” said Daily Journal Executive Editor Sam Hall.

Steven Watson wrote, “I don’t have adequate words to describe him. So much talent and integrity and fierceness and caring. The most unique editorial voice in the state. He will be missed.”

“I’m sad to hear about this tremendous loss to the state’s newspaper community,” said retired Mississippi State journalism professor Frances McDavid.

“Logan, I was a great fan of your dad. He was a talented writer, a fearless watchdog and a man of integrity. My deepest condolences to you and your family,” wrote Associated Press reporter Emily Wagster Pettus.

His friend Willie Bearden touched on the thing that made Ray Mosby so good at what he did for a living, but also so good at being a top-notch human being.

“I have so many memories of long conversations with Ray. He and I were in agreement about most things, but especially when it came to recognizing that everyone is struggling in their own way,” Bearden wrote. “Ray possessed a deep and abiding love for people, even those he wanted to thump on the head. I will miss Ray.”

From the Mississippi Press Association: Fun at the reception in the penthouse with Cheryl Valentine, and MPA board members Ray Mosby of The Deer Creek Pilot and Stephanie Patton of The Leland Progress. Photobomb by MPA Vice President Don Norman of the Starkville Daily News.

Former employee Jeremy Weldon, now a reporter at the Batesville Panolian, wrote about his former boss.

“Ray was my Little League baseball coach, and later gave me my first newspaper job. He and Phyllis would graciously have the cub reporter over for dinner about once a week,” he said. “Years later, during the Ice Storm, we stayed up two days straight getting the Leland Progress and Deer Creek Pilot ready for press in the Mosby living room when neither office had electricity. He loved newspapers and newspaper people, and called every few months to check on Batesville and The Panolian. What a friend, what a loss. He died with ink on his hands, and a clear conscience. May we all be so fortunate.”

Statewide political reporter Geoff Pender commented on a post by Hall, highlighting the sense of friendship and community Mosby always had for those in the journalism world. That was so true of Mosby — if he liked your writing, he was your friend. From that point on, you were open to his unending support and his constructive criticism.

“Ray would occasionally call me to basically ask WTF about something going on at the statehouse. I always loved talking with him, and always looked forward to the acerbic column that was usually forthcoming. Godspeed, Ray Mosby,” Pender said.

Timothy Lane Smith, a longtime newspaper man himself, summed up the feelings of a lot of Mississippi journalists.

“I am not happy with you at all, Ray. I always took comfort in knowing that no matter how much crap I caught for what I write, you were a comrade in arms – and a more talented one at that,” he wrote. “I wish you would have stuck around a while longer in our mutual fight for a better, kinder Mississippi, but you’ve earned your rest. Godspeed, my friend.”

It’s unorthodox as a journalist to include yourself or your own voice in a story, but I need to say what Ray meant to me as well.

I only met Ray once face-to-face. Most of our friendship revolved around this evolved journalism world that exists on the internet in social media. When I would post about reporter problems, or make a comment on the general ugliness of the world or unkindness of the general public, or even the beauty of the human spirit, Ray would comment on my post, and I valued his opinions and his insights so much.

Sometimes I would just go look at his Facebook page to see what he was saying most recently, because when you want to be a leader in the journalism world, you find those who are doing it right and you watch how they conduct themselves.

In my eyes, Ray Mosby was bulletproof. He was the standard of what a good journalist was, and what a good leader was.

Ray, thank you for being my friend. ❤️

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