J. Neal Ensminger began his 50-year career with the The Daily Post Athenian of Athens as an advertising salesman in 1937, and retired as executive editor in 1987 still longhand scribbling his news reports and editorials.
He was born October 10, 1908, in McMinn County, the son of John and Lena Lowry Ensminger, and was a graduate of McMinn County High School and Tennessee Wesleyan College, where he was student body president.
He was working in the grocery business in 1937 when The Daily Post-Athenian publisher Fred Waken hired him to sell advertising. He started in display advertising, but also reported some news events “because in those days everyone at the paper did a little bit of everything.” Later he worked in circulation, wrote a sports column, and reported general news. He became the general manager before being named executive editor in 1962.
Ensminger was a career tutor for newspaper staff members, and in 1977 he won a first place for editorial writing in the annual UT-TPA newspaper contest.
Ensminger was well known in Athens and McMinn County for his civic, church and charitable activities. He taught Sunday school at Keith Memorial United Methodist Church for more than 50 years, and was a charter member and driving force for the Friendly Fellow Club to raise $30,000 annually to provide Christmas food baskets for community under-privileged.
A sought-after community speaker, Ensminger was the first recipient of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year Award, and first recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award at Tennessee Wesleyan College. Both awards were named in his honor and an endowed scholarship established to honor him and his wife, Maggie.
When Ensminger announced his retirement in 1987, he wrote a farewell editorial reflecting on his long career:
“It is time to end this scribbling (I never did learn to type). And it’s good to ease out in the spring, not summer when it’s sultry and simmering, not winter when it’s cold and harsh, not fall when it’s lovely and fading, but in the spring, when the season is new, the future beckons and the days are filled with promise. So it’s thank you time… thanks to everybody for 50 fulfilling, satisfying years in newspaper…one of, if not the best, professions in the nation.”
But for the next 14 years, he wrote a weekly column, “Window Views”, until his death at age 92 on August 11, 2001. Mrs. Ensminger died two months later. They were married 64 years.