Johnson Newspapers Publisher Charles Kelly Retires

By: E&P Staff

The man who calls himself “the largest paperboy in St. Lawrence County,” is hanging up his sack.

After 56 years, Charles W. Kelly, publisher and editor of newspapers based in Ogdensburg, Massena, Canton and Malone, N.Y., is retiring Sept. 10.

His boast comes, in part, from his habit of delivering papers when carriers weren’t available. “I just adopted a policy a long time ago that if they got me on the phone, I would deliver it,” he told Jim Reagan, reporter for Johnson Newspapers Corp.

Kelly will pursue a part-time role with Johnson Newspaper’s St. Lawrence County Newspapers division, writing his two columns in Ogdensburg’s Advance News.

Reagan quotes Johnson Newspapers Chairman and CEO John B. Johnson Jr. saying, “Chuck defended Ogdensburg, Massena and St. Lawrence County from political backroom deals. Chuck Kelly never turned his back on a news story.”

And from former Rep. John M. McHugh, now secretary of the Army: “Chuck’s opinions have long set the agenda for conversation and debate throughout the region,” he said. “Whether you agreed with Chuck or not, he would always give you an open ear and fair shot. And, at the end of the day, the things he cared most about – his two true passions – were the newspaper he loved and the city he called home.”

Beginning in 1954, Kelly worked as a sportswriter and general assignment reporter. After serving overseas in the Army, he returned to the newspaper business, eventually becoming publisher.

In 1982, Kelly worked with a state senator to put a state prison in Ogdensburg. Reagan relates the following story of Kelly’s commitment to jobs for his region. While on a street corner near the state Capitol four years later, a limousine stopped, and from the window then-Governor Mario M. Cuomo yelled, “Chuck! Chuck! Did you hear my State of the State message? I proposed Ogdensburg as a location for one of my Opportunity Zones.”

“I want a prison,” Kelly replied.
“You have a prison,” the governor said.
“I want another one, and I’ll take one of those zones, too.”

He eventually got one of the few upstate Empire Zones, helping bring businesses to the city’s industrial park.

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