John W. Finney

Induction Year: 1973

Lived: 1900-1965


The Daily Herald, Columbia

The Maury Democrat, Columbia



John W. Finney was born into a newspaper family on June 8, 1900, and grew up in Columbia, Tennessee, where his father, James I. Finney, was co-publisher of the Daily Herald.


Although he learned the newspaper profession from his father, Finney chose teaching as a career after service in the U.S. Navy and graduation from the University of Tennessee. The three years he taught in the Maury County school system before he was lured back home to become editor of the Daily Herald were to have a lasting influence on him.


For almost 40 years as editor of the Daily Herald--17 of which years he also was publisher and general manager of the weekly Maury Democrat--Finney worked tirelessly on the local, state, and national levels to improve education. He campaigned both privately and publicly through the editorial columns of the Daily Herald and the Maury Democrat to improve city and county schools. He served in 1955 on a White House Conference on Education and was appointed to the Tennessee State Board of Education in 1962. He was serving on the board at the time of his death in 1965.


Finney did not live to see one of his major editorial campaigns fulfilled. He wrote countless editorials and used his considerable influence in educational and political circles to bring a community college to the Maury County area so those who could not afford to go away to college would have an opportunity for higher education. Less than five months after his death the first community college site in the state of Tennessee was approved for Columbia. The library at Columbia State Community College is named in his honor.


Finney's editorials covered every field of human concern and were widely reprinted by other newspapers. They also brought him numerous awards in the public service category. But he was not content just to write. He held a deep conviction that a newspaper editor should back up his editorial calls for public service with personal service as well. And in addition to his work in education, he devoted countless hours as a member and chairman of the Selective Service Board in Columbia before spending three years on active duty as a Marine Corps officer in World War II. Later he served on the Middle Tennessee Board of Appeals of Selective Service.


He was elected president of the Tennessee Press Association in 1952 and later was named chairman of the group's legislative committee. He was highly regarded by his colleagues for his views on ethical standards for the press. Finney's career parallels that of his father in many ways--including membership in the Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame. James I. Finney was named to the Hall of Fame in 1971.