July 21, 2011
In 1958, Dink NeSmith was 10 years old and already active in the newspaper business. When the 3 o’clock bell rang at Orange Street Elementary School, he would jump on his bike and race seven blocks to the back door of The Jesup Sentinel. There he would buy a stack of the weekly newspapers for a nickel each. Pedaling as fast as he could, he rushed to meet the shift change at the Sea Island Shirt Factory. As the ladies left work, he turned his nickels into dimes before the ink dried on the latest edition of the local news.
Fourteen years later, he borrowed $3,000 to make a down payment on one-third interest in Jesup’s competing newspaper, the upstart Wayne County Press. Four years later, he joined Community Newspapers, Inc. in the purchase and consolidation of the two papers to form the twice-weekly, The Press-Sentinel.
Today, NeSmith, 62, is co-owner and president of Athens-based Community Newspapers, Inc., publisher of more than 30 newspapers in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.
A 1970 graduate of The University of Georgia’s Grady College, he is past president of the Georgia Press Association, Leadership Georgia and UGA’s National Alumni Association. He has also served as chairman of Grady’s advisory board, president of the college’s alumni association, and chairman of the board of directors of the Fanning Leadership Institute. He is chairman of the Richard B. Russell Foundation and an emeritus member of UGA’s Athletic Association’s board of directors. He’s also an emeritus trustee of the University of Georgia Foundation.
In 2008, Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed him to the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, representing the 10th Congressional District. He served eight yeas on the Commission for a New Georgia, as well as a term on Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission. He is a past chairman of the Georgia Telecommunications Commission.
In 1996, when the Centennial Olympics came to Georgia, he chaired Athens 96, which coordinated the community’s involvement in soccer, volleyball and rhythmic gymnastics events. Currently, he serves on the board of directors of Athens First Bank and Trust Company, Southern Mutual Insurance Company, Pattillo Construction Company, the Georgia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and MCG Health Systems, Inc.
His wife, Pam, is a 1971 UGA graduate and co-founder of The Bottleworks in Athens, winner of Georgia Trust’s 2002 Preservation Award for Excellence. The old 85,000 square-foot Coca-Cola buildings were converted into a mixed-use complex, including residential, retail and commercial.
The NeSmiths have three children, all graduates of The University of Georgia: Alan, 37, publisher of The Northeast Georgian in Cornelia; Emily N. Wilson, 34, of Senoia, and Eric, 31, publisher of The Highlander in Highlands, N.C. The NeSmiths have five grandsons.