A tribute to Mr. Bill Wall

Published 6:30 am Thursday, January 23, 2020

We are grateful to the late William Bidgood “Bill” Wall for the time, energy, passion and dedication that he gave to The Farmville Herald during his time as its owner, publisher and general manager.

Listening to his son Steve Wall and longtime Herald employees William “Buckie” Fore and Marge Swayne share insights about him provided us with a fresh appreciation of what he meant to people, the newspaper and the area.

Steve Wall described his father as being “as good as gold. If he told you something, it was done, but he didn’t put up with any foolishness either.”

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It was moving to hear Steve, who ran The Herald with his father, speak about what that working experience was like.

“There’s nothing like what great luck I had in being able to share an office with my father for 37-and-a-half years, literally every day,” he said. “… And we never argued, never had any problems. We got along royally. Too much alike, I suppose.”

Steve also reminded us of how incredibly knowledgeable his father was about the newspaper industry, and much of that knowledge came through firsthand experience at all levels.

“When he was first at The Herald, our coverage area extended from Prince Edward all the way to Powhatan,” Steve Wall said. “We were Powhatan’s primary newspaper too at the time, so Dad would go to Powhatan on Friday night’s to cover football. And then he did sports, news photography and general managed the business, so he was a busy man. But he loved what he did.”

Fore affirmed that Bill Wall’s employees were like his extended family.

“I couldn’t agree more,” Fore said. “We were a very close-knit group. Everybody knew everybody else’s job, and when one person was behind, somebody — whoever was available — would jump in and play catch-up. And it was like that. Nobody had to tell anybody anything. That’s just the way it was. … It was just like family.”

Fore said, “Bill was a good friend as well as a boss, and he and I developed a friendship very early when I went to work at The Herald as a kid right out of high school. Bill was 10 years older than me.”

Even after Bill became his boss, Fore said it never changed their friendship.

“I loved the man,” Fore said.

In the story we published about Mr. Wall in the Jan. 15, 2020 edition, there was a point in which the article seemed to be as much about the paper as it was about him, but that was only fitting given how much The Herald was a reflection of him.

Swayne noted that key to realizing his concept of The Herald as a community newspaper were community correspondents who provided community news from every area of the counties the paper covered.

The content of these news updates included “things like potluck suppers and who went to visit and things like that,” Swayne said.

It was her job to manage the correspondents, and she shared how Mr. Wall would hold an annual community correspondents’ luncheon honoring them. He would always open this luncheon with a speech.

Swayne said, “He always told this story — which actually came from my husband, who told it to him one time — about the importance of a community newspaper, because my husband was in the Navy 20 years, and he was often out at sea on a ship, and he did get The Farmville Herald by mail,” Swayne said. “And he told Mr. Wall that not only did he appreciate it a lot, but the other guys would stand in line to read it and not because they knew anybody but because of the way the paper was written as a community-based paper — it really brought a touch of home to all these guys, reading the community correspondents. And because of that, really, Farmville became everybody’s hometown.”

Thank you, Mr. Wall.