Kentucky Publisher Gish Praised At Funeral

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Award-winning eastern Kentucky publisher Tom Gish was remembered at his funeral Monday as a crusading journalist whose work improved his community.

“The hills were in his soul and in his spirit,” said the Rev. Jerry Utt, who conducted the service at Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church. “How could he not speak out for those who had no voice?”

Utt said Gish made Letcher County a better place to live and work. Friends, a large family and fellow journalists were among those attending the service.

Gish, 82, died Friday. He and his wife, Pat, bought The Mountain Eagle in 1956, and endured floods, threats, even arson as they took on issues such as corruption and the environmental effects of strip mining in the coalfields region. A son, Ben Gish, is the paper’s editor

“We might call Tom a prophet,” Utt said. Acknowledging the paper’s motto of “It Screams,” Utt said: “What else can a prophet do but scream when folks have their ears stopped up?”

He said when Gish’s work drew ire in the community, that didn’t stop the publisher from doing what he needed to do: “publishing a paper … pulling back the shade and letting light into the dark corners.”

Gish was also praised for mentoring and inspiring other journalists.

Tom and Pat Gish “gave me the foundation for much of the work I’ve done as a journalist,” said David Hawpe, who is editorial director at The Courier-Journal and also spoke at the funeral.

Gish was a former Frankfort bureau chief for United Press International before buying the paper. Awards include the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism and a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Professional Journalists, among many others.

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