ROCKINGHAM — Local leaders and colleagues are mourning the loss of Rick Bacon, the Richmond County Daily Journal’s former editor and publisher. Bacon died Thursday night after a long battle with lung cancer.
County Manager Rick Sago said he respects Bacon as a newsman for the way he guided the Daily Journal’s coverage.
“I enjoyed the years I worked with Rick,” Sago said. “Even though governments and the press don’t always see eye to eye, Rick was always fair and made sure that he gave all of our economic development announcements excellent coverage. He will be missed.”
As leader of the Daily Journal for several years, Bacon earned a reputation for making people feel at home in his presence, according to Wendy McLaurin Dennis, former sales and marketing manager for the paper.
“He was a beloved friend and boss,” Dennis said. “I participated in Leadership Richmond with Rick. He was a very smart man and had the wittiest personality and was just an all-around cool guy. He always had something comical to say. I remember we were at a luncheon at City Hall and he just really couldn’t believe I was a true Southerner because I’d never tasted banana pudding. I tried it, but I ended up giving it to him, I think. He made me laugh every time I was around him. I hate that I haven’t seen him in a long time, and that I’m never going to see him again. He was just Rick Bacon. That’s all you can really say.”
Susie Smith, regional office manager and 20-year veteran of the paper, worked with Bacon for 11 years, including the 10 he spent here as publisher from 2003-13.
“I think we all know that Rick was a character,” Smith said. “He was funny, and he had his own unique sense of humor. He was also a good supervisor and helped us no matter what. Any time we needed help with anything, or even if we just wanted to vent, we knew he had our back. And it was the same even after he moved to Lumberton. He was definitely a company man, no doubt about it. He worked long hours and put all his time and effort into it. The news business was just that important to him. But he was also a generous man. He and his wife were involved in many charities. I don’t think people realize that about him.”
Bacon had more than 44 years of experience in the newspaper and media industry. After leading the Daily Journal, he went to work at sister Civitas Media newspaper The Robesonian in Lumberton as community relations manager in August 2013.
“He had been fighting cancer … with incredible bravery and we had thought heretofore, successfully,” said Michael Bush, CEO of Civitas Media, which owns the Daily Journal. “Rick was a consummate professional, wonderful friend, terrific supporter of the company, true baseball fan and a very funny guy. I will miss him every day both personally and professionally.”
In addition to his duties at The Robesonian, Bacon was regional business development manager of Civitas Media’s Eastern Carolina Group of newspapers, which includes the Daily Journal, The Cheraw Chronicle, The Anson Record, The Laurinburg Exchange, The Bladen Journal, The Red Springs Citizen and The St. Pauls Review.
Bacon held leadership roles as publisher and regional publisher with CNI Newspapers Inc. and Heartland Publications in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Before his newspaper career, he spent a dozen years in broadcasting, working with several radio stations in North Carolina.
“Rick was a great guy and he will be missed. He had a wonderful sense of humor that made working with him fun,” said Robin Walker, business development manager for The Robesonian who reported directly to Bacon. “But he was also a very good newspaperman who had great ideas that were essential during a time when the industry is facing so many challenges.”
Bacon penned his own obituary, which will be published soon in the Daily Journal. In it, he wrote: “Everyone who remembers Rick is asked to celebrate his life in their own way; telling a ‘He wasn’t so bad’ or ‘What an ass’ story of their choosing. Boiled shrimp and a beverage of your choice should be part of any celebration.”
Bacon was raised in Burnsville, the younger of two children. He and his wife Candy, who were married for 29 years, moved to Lumberton from Hamlet. They have three grown children, Jon, Melody and Bryan, five grandchildren and four rescue dogs.
Bacon was an avid fan of the Cincinnati Reds for more than 50 years and traveled around the country to watch them play.
Bacon attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Mars Hill College. He served for four years in the U.S. Air Force and held a top-secret cryptography job while stationed in Turkey and Italy.
He served on a number of community and business boards. He was the immediate past president of the Rockingham Rotary Club. He served on the board of directors of the United Way in Lake City, Florida. The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce named him Chamber Member of the Year during his time as publisher there. He served for two years as a board member of the South Carolina Press Association.
“The world is a smaller place today,” Bush said. “For the many of you who knew Rick and of his valiant and spirited struggle these last months, I’m sure you will be struck by the fundamental unfairness of his death. I hope, however, that you will be inspired by the quality of his gentle strength and great spirit in his last struggle. He was the bravest soul I ever knew.”
A “Celebration to Remember” that Bacon planned before his death is scheduled from 1-3 p.m. Aug. 23 at Pier 41 Seafood in Lumberton. Bacon asked people not to waste money by sending flowers. Instead, he suggests those who want to remember him do a random act of kindness or donate to their favorite charity.