Attending the Walton County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting are, from left, Allison Graham, Angela Yarman, Madison Graham and Walton Tribune Proprietor Patrick Graham, who later was surprised with the 2020 J.L. McGarity Citizenship Award during the 73rd annual event Thursday night, Jan. 28, 2021, in Monroe, Ga.

Patrick Graham, the proprietor of The Walton Tribune since 2014, was named the 2020 J.L. McGarity Citizenship Award winner.

Graham, 52, received the award at the Walton County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting Thursday night. It’s presented each year to an outstanding citizen of the community.

Graham came to Walton County in 2003 to serve as publisher of The Tribune. He served until 2009 and came back five years later when he purchased the paper from the Texas company that had owned it since 1983, returning the paper to local ownership for the first time since the Camp family sold it in the 1970s.

He expanded his newspaper holdings in subsequent years, purchasing The Covington News in 2017 and three Alabama newspapers — The Sand Mountain Reporter in Albertville, Times-Journal in Fort Payne and the Jackson County Sentinel in Scottsboro — in 2019.

Despite the growth in his business holdings, Graham has remained in Walton County. He and his wife, Allison, live just outside Monroe. They are members of St. Anna’s Catholic Church.

Graham is a native of Huntsville, Alabama, and a 1991 graduate of the University of Alabama. He’s been a news editor at the Madison County Record in Madison, Alabama, staff writer for the Huntsville News and capital correspondent for the Memphis Business Journal. Graham began his career in newspaper management in 1996 as the managing editor of the Times-Journal and became the associate publisher of The Sand Mountain Reporter in 2000.

His first publisher position was with The Tribune, and in 2009 he became the publisher of a daily paper for the first time at The Paris News in north Texas.

Graham served as the publisher of The Daily News in Galveston, Texas — the state’s oldest newspaper — from 2011-13.

The Grahams returned to Walton County along with their three daughters, Madison, Tabitha and AnnaBelle, in 2014.

Madison Graham is the advertising director of The Tribune, and Tabitha Graham is the paper’s composing manager.

Patrick Graham is a member of the United Way of Walton County board of directors and has served as the board’s chairman and the campaign chairman. He is the 2020-21 president of the Rotary Club of Monroe and is a past chairman-elect of the Walton County Chamber of Commerce. He is a board member of the Georgia Press Association, which has recognized The Tribune as a General Excellence winner — the highest honor in GPA — for four years running.

The J.L. McGarity Award for Graham was particularly fitting now, given the newspaper’s service to the community in the past year. The Tribune experienced readership at unprecedented levels in the spring of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Georgia. The newspaper made its reporting on the pandemic free for all readers online in the early months of the crisis.

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