“The paper” – whether on inky newsprint or electronic devices – tells the stories of people who make Greenville what it is and those who call it home.
For the Peace family, the Greenville News was the family business. It shaped the childhoods of city leaders and allowed the family to invest in what would become the cornerstone of Greenville’s arts scene and an anchor for its incredible resurgence. As residents say goodbye to the building that housed the news for almost 50 years, a new chapter begins.
Betty Stall says the location of the news on Main Street was a deliberate choice.
“It’s all a continuation of the same theme – and that’s a commitment to downtown,” she says.
Betty Stall’s father, Bony Hampton Peace Jr., is often credited, along with his brothers, with encouraging his father, Bony Hampton Peace, to purchase the Greenville News in 1919. She thinks that might be the stuff of urban legend more than reality. All three boys were in their teens at the time.
“My father at that time was 13,” she says. “I guess they may have, but I don’t think my 13-year-old father did that.”
Nonetheless, the newspaper and the Peace family became synonymous.
“It was my life,” Betty Stall says. “So many of the family worked there. It was a deep family involvement. And they had that deep family with the employees back then.”
The commitment to making the newspaper a part of the fabric of downtown Greenville began with a plan.
“My great uncle, Roger Peace, he and Mr. (Charles) Daniel committed to each other to build their businesses in downtown Greenville to keep Greenville alive,” Edward Stall, Betty’s son, says. “They built the Daniel Building on one end and the Greenville News on the other.”
Russell Stall, also Betty’s son, says it was a time when downtown was not really considered the place to be.
“Part of the reason they wanted to be there was to continue the vibrancy of downtown,” he says.
Both Edward and Russell Stall have fond memories of visiting the Greenville News. The children watched the annual Christmas parade from the windows and were sure to grab a soft drink from their grandfather’s office.
“It was a great place to visit,” Russell Stall says. “He always had six-ounce Coca Colas in his office. As a grandkid, that’s what you did. You went to get one of those Cokes. We used to go from where they did the news to the press room and there was a spiral staircase between the two.”
But it was more than a place to explore.
“That building was a really important statement about the importance of a vibrant downtown,” Russell Stall says. “It was put there because the newspaper was the community.”
Both Russell and Edward Stall recall the opening of the building in 1969, with tour guides wearing dresses that looked as if they were made of newsprint. The brothers recall watching sports editor Dan Foster in awe as he wrote and submitted sports stories from away games. And Russell Stall remembers watching wire stories come into the newsroom.
“It printed a long single strip,” he says. “They would literally cut it up and paste it to create the story. It was fascinating to watch the news come across this machine one letter at a time.”
The Peace family had a front row seat to much of Greenville’s – and the Greenville News’ – history. Edward Stall says the family was able to see everything happen, from beauty pageants to a visit from Billy Graham.
“We didn’t realize what a privilege that was when we were growing up,” he says.
Ultimately, the Peace family’s exit from the newspaper business resulted in the financial ability to invest in the creation of a performing arts center that would have continuing ramifications for the city.
“The newspaper created this business that created value,” Edward Peace says. “It was the newspaper that allowed the generosity. There would be no Peace Center without the Greenville News. There’s no coincidence that it was built across the street from the Greenville News. It’s that commitment to downtown. The Peaces didn’t think it up. They were just in a position to kick it off.”
“The Peace Center to me is an extension of the public presence of the Greenville News building,” Russell Stall says. “It was a way for the Peace legacy to live on after the paper was sold.”
With its foundation literally and figuratively built on Greenville’s downtown, Betty Stall says the move of the Greenville News to its new location at 32 Broad means the demolition of the old building is like “goodbye to an old friend.” But it’s a move that will continue the legacy of looking to the future.
“Life is change,” she says.