- Associated Press - Thursday, July 11, 2019

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - The longtime owner and editor of a small Alabama newspaper that called for a revival of the Ku Klux Klan has sold the publication and retired, months after igniting a firestorm with the editorial, the new owner said.

Goodloe Sutton, 80, no longer has any role with The Democrat-Reporter newspaper in Linden, said Tommy Wells, the new owner and operator.

“He doesn’t even have a key anymore,” Wells said.

Sutton received widespread attention after publishing an editorial in February that advocated a return of KKK night riders to deal with Democrats and “Democrats in the Republican Party” in Washington. Two universities subsequently rescinded awards to Sutton, and the Alabama Press Association censured him.

Sutton said in an interview with The Associated Press that he subsequently tried to sell the paper by it turning over first to an employee and then an out-of-state couple, but both agreements fell through.

Sutton, whose wife and co-worker Jean Sutton died in 2003, had been trying to sell the newspaper for years before he published the incendiary editorial.

Wells, working with his wife, published his first edition of the newspaper last month. He announced Sutton’s July 1 retirement in a story published in Thursday’s edition.

“It’s mine now. I have a bill of sale and everything,” Wells said.

Sutton, who was quoted in the story as saying he has been looking forward to retirement, did not respond to questions in an email seeking comment. A phone number listed in his name has been disconnected.

With about three decades in the newspaper business, Wells said in the article he talked to Sutton several years ago about acquiring the Democrat-Reporter. Wells, who has been working as a sports publicist at a small college in Texas, said he called Sutton after hearing Sutton planned to close it.

“When Goodloe said he was going to close the business, I know it sounds cheesy, but it was a blow to me. I told him, “Alright, don’t close it. I’ll do it. It’ll be crazy for a while, but I’ll do it,” Wells said in the story.

Wells said he is still trying to work out the newspaper’s permit to mail copies of the weekly paper, which is distributed mainly in Marengo County in west Alabama.

Sutton and his wife won praises for uncovering local corruption in the 1990s. Their work was featured in stories in The New York Times and Reader’s Digest, and the couple appeared on a segment of Oprah Winfrey’s show about “people who did the right thing” in 1998.

Speaking with AP in April, Sutton said health problems had left him with diminished mental capacities.

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