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Former editor Bill Simonton dies at 85

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Bill Simonton, a former editor of The Leader who mentored many at the paper and ushered in new technology, died last Friday. He was 85.
He started working at the newspaper when he was eight years old and became editor in 1957. He served in that role until his resignation in 1975.
Simonton oversaw The Leader's conversion from a letter press to an offset press in 1961, making the paper the first weekly in West Tennessee to utilize the new technology.
"Bill would do anything it took to get the paper out," said Richard Vandergrift, who was hired by Simonton in 1972. "He didn't shun anything. He would write editorials and opinions and always took on things that he thought were wrong in the community. That wasn't really the case before he got there."
Roland Weir was hired by Simonton as a sportswriter at The Leader in the 1960s.
"I was sad when he left," said Weir. "He helped me out a lot. He was the leader of a lot of changes at the paper. He was really well-liked in the community too."
In an interview two years ago, Simonton talked about his philosophies during his time at the paper.
"I was taught to write tight," Simonton said. "I don't think people do that today. My uncle (Alison Simonton) always said newspapers are for people in a hurry. You put the most important thing first. It was necessary the way papers were made then because printers cut from the end of the story."
Simonton was also very involved in the community, serving as an officer at the Covington Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Industrial Development Committee. He was a member of the Covington Board of Education and served as chairman during desegregation.
He was an assistant football coach and officiated high school and college football games, as well as local basketball games.
What he will probably most be remembered for is his work at The Leader where he served as a mentor for several employees.
While he was very popular with his employees, he liked things done right.
"One time he called me and asked if the Covington football team was all right," Vandergrift said. "I had written that the team had received a plague instead of a plaque. That was funny, but he was always very encouraging. He was a good person and he cared about his employees. It was a sad day when he left."
He was preceded in death by his parents and his wife of 55 years, Jane Butler Simonton. Survivors include a daughter, Gail M. Simonton of Alexandria, Va.; a son, Kevin W. Simonton, his wife Fonda Simonton, and a granddaughter, Savannah Simonton, of Cordova.

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