For more than of half of its existence, there was one constant human resource serving Blount County at its community newspaper: H. Dean Stone, the longtime Daily Times editor with the trademark red cap who died about 1 p.m. Monday at the age of 92 at the home of his only son, Neal.
When Stone was born — Sept. 23, 1924, to A.H. and Annie Cupp Stone at 1809 Sevierville Road, Maryville — his hometown newspaper carried the nameplate of The Maryville Times. It was a semi-weekly, published on Mondays and Thursdays, with a circulation probably around 4,500.
Stone would go on to attend Everett Elementary and High School for 12 years, serving as co-sports editor of the school’s newspaper, The Blue and Gray, and was on the undefeated 1941 football squad.
Upon graduating, he began attending Maryville College, but by then the nation was embroiled in World War II. Stone was in the Army Reserve, and at the end of his freshman year in college, he went on active duty. On July 4, 1944, the year The Maryville Times became The Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times, Stone found himself in combat south of Pisa, Italy.
In early May 1945, Germany surrendered, ending the war in Europe; on Sept. 2, 1945, Japan surrendered in a ceremonial signing aboard the USS Missouri. By then, Stone and his unit were already en route to the U.S. for leave — but Stone would not be home long.
In 1946, he enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism, serving as the assistant sports editor of the 13,000-circulation daily campus newspaper. Later, he would work part time for The Associated Press as campus correspondent. He spent the summers of 1947 and 1948 (his official start date as a part-timer being June 19, 1948) working at The Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times.
The next year, owner Clyde Bright Emert decided to take a run at publishing a Sunday edition and chose the young college graduate to lead that effort, naming him to the full-time position of Sunday editor on Feb. 1, 1949.
The Sunday product was short-lived, surviving only five months, but Emert must have been impressed: He named Stone managing editor of the daily newspaper — of course, he was also sports editor.
The newsroom must have felt like home, because for more than six decades he could be found there all hours of the day — for 66 years — and crafting stories under a variety of nameplates.
During that time, the newspaper was transformed from The Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times, with the marketing underline of “The Best Little Metropolitan Newspaper in the South”; The Morning Daily Times, “The Best Little Metropolitan Newspaper in the Nation, Serving Maryville, Alcoa and Blount County”; to the seven-day publication that is now The Daily Times, alternately “Your Life. Your Times.” and “Blount County’s Newspaper of Record Since 1883.”
But whenever Stone spoke of the newspaper, it was simply “The Times,” through which he had seen several generations born, married, buried, and all points in between were covered on newsprint.
Stone outlasted four owners and six publishers, while seeing the news move from hot type, to computer-generated type, to the internet, all the while chronicling life in Blount County — even as he was embedded within the very organizations and community he was chronicling. While metropolitan newspapers and massive chains were struggling to find their way back into reader relevancy, community journalism seemed to come natural with Stone.
For him, becoming entrenched in the community that he was chronicling was just life — whether it was serving on education foundations, establishing an ongoing service project that serves the needy at Christmas, leading the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains Park Commission — he was a champion of the Park — or scores of other organizations.
That could be why, as U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander once said of him, “No one tells the story of Blount County better than Dean Stone.”
Funeral arrangements are incomplete and will be announced by Smith Funeral and Cremation Service.