John N. Popham, III, was dispatched by The New York Times in 1947 to cover the South, an area his editors described as "from the Potomac to central Texas." It was an assignment in which he would distinguish himself with his coverage of the civil rights movement.
The last 20 years of his 45-year career was spent at The Chattanooga Times, where he retired as managing editor in 1977. A Fredricksburg, Va., native and Fordham University graduate, Popham joined the Times in the 1930's. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942, earning a Bronze Star for service in the Pacific during World War II.
A year after his return to the Times, he landed the Southern correspondent assignment with two conditions of management: he had to drive, not fly, from place to place, and he had to keep an office at the sister-ship Chattanooga Times. He became known to friends as "Pops" or "Johnny" and to everyone else for his heavy Tidewater Virginia accent and the trademark hats, fitting the caricature (at the time) of a newspaperman. Post-retirement and at the age of 72, he earned a law degree from the John Marshall Law School after commuting hundreds of miles a week to Atlanta. He died in 1999 at the age of 89.