In 1910, the Era-Leader of Franklinton, Louisiana, was formed by the merger of the Washington Leader and the New Era (the first newspaper in the parish, founded in 1887 as the Franklinton New Era). The Era-Leader’s editor was J. Valentine “Vol” Brock (1873-1954), a native of Mississippi who, with Prentiss B. Carter, had edited the short-lived Washington Progress around 1900.
Prior to World War I, Brock reported almost entirely local news. In addition to news from Franklinton (the seat of Washington Parish, an agricultural and timber-producing parish in southeastern Louisiana), the four-page weekly carried regular reports from nearby towns, including Bogalusa, the largest town in the parish and the operations center of one of its largest employers, the Great Southern Lumber Company. Farm and forestry news was combined with personal notices, biographies of political candidates, announcements of public sales, and proceedings of the local school board, court, and police jury (the governing body of the parish).
In 1912, Brock, a lawyer, was elected district attorney for Washington and St. Tammany Parishes and turned over the editorship of the Era-Leader to his wife, Henrietta “Henri” McClendon Brock (1873-1948), who edited the paper for the next twenty-five years. A graduate of Whitworth College in Brookhaven, Mississippi, Mrs. Brock was an educational leader in Washington Parish for many years. In 1916, she was elected the first woman president of the Louisiana Press Association, an honor recognized by one journal as “a milestone in the progress of women in the State.”
The Era-Leader is a rich source of information on the impact of World War I on southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Many articles trace the war’s impact on local agriculture and forestry.
Also of interest are articles on military enlistment (including enlistment of African American troops), rationing, efforts to reduce waste, and a series of six “war talks” by “Uncle Dan” (Howard H. Gross of the Universal Military Training League). Reporting on the Red Cross was in depth and continued after the war, focusing on its campaign to eradicate tuberculosis.
The Franklinton Era-Leader was the official journal of Washington Parish, a role it continues to fill in 2010.