Walsh touted Augusta, 'New South'

Patrick Walsh was unique.


A newspaperman, he was held in such civic esteem that our city erected a statue of him after he died. It's still there in Telfair Street's old Barrett Plaza.

Walsh was a man of the people. He liked them, he informed them, and he led them.

The statue is an honor well-deserved because Walsh was one of Augusta's most effective residents in the decades after the Civil War.

For one thing, the Irish native was Augusta's biggest booster. When The Augusta Chronicle celebrated its centennial in 1885, Walsh put together a huge special section touting the highlights of the city. He then sent copies all over the country, suggesting Augusta was a place where you would want to invest.

He was, with Atlanta Constitution editor Henry Grady, among those Southern newspapermen promoting a "New South" after the war, one that would encourage outside industry to a region ravaged by war.

Grady, for whom the University of Georgia's journalism school is named, was the one who joked that his friend Walsh was "so Irish he walked with a brogue."

Walsh was also one of the region's most active political players, a regular at Democratic presidential conventions.

He was also a politician, serving at different times as a member of the Augusta City Council and the state House. He was also a U.S. senator, and when he died in 1899, he was Augusta's mayor.

As a newspaperman, Walsh was exceptional. A printer by background, he made The Chronicle an industry leader in the use of layout and typography. It was well illustrated for its day and used the leading techniques of newspaper production.

But Walsh was first and foremost an editor. Though he used The Chronicle's opinion pages to boost the city, he also used them to attack the region's wrongs -- particularly in its treatment of former slaves.

Walsh always had a sense of this newspaper's place in history and in its community.

He once wrote of Augusta's future: "We will not live to witness the realization of this dream. But The Chronicle will live. The workers die, but the work remains."