Libel case from 1912 fades from memory

I enjoy the stories from 100 years ago, and I've enjoyed reading about the editor and publisher of the Tidings who faced a libel charge. The story seems to have dropped off. Do we know what happened to him?

— Nick, Medford

The case did seem to drop off, Nick, and despite scouring through all of January 1913 in the musty archives division of SYA HQ, it looks like the story stayed off the pages of the Muddy Tributary a century ago.

The story, first mentioned on Oct. 16, 1912, was that the editor and publisher of the Ashland Tidings, Bert R. Greer, made libelous claims against then Democratic candidate for county Judge F.L. TouVelle. The libelous claim, according to the Oct. 16, 1912 Mail Tribune, was that "Mr. TouVelle had made a 'deal' with the 'Medford gang' which had already 'looted' the county of a half-million dollars."

Of course, Mr. TouVelle denied the claim, and the last mention of the case was Dec. 8, 1912, when it was set to go to trial later in the month.

Our friends at the Southern Oregon Historical Society dug up a musty old docket, handwritten in pencil, entitled "Jackson County Justice Court 1910-1916," and while we found other criminal trials mentioned in the Mail Tribune pages of the day, such as the murder trials for Mike Spanos and Bert Cummings, there was no mention in the docket of State v. Greer charging criminal libel.

Nor was there a mention of the case in Mr. Greer's obituary, which ran in the pages of our then-rival paper, the Ashland Daily Tidings, on Sept. 7, 1926, so it appears that the case was quietly dropped.

According to his daughter Lillian's obituary, which ran in the Ashland Daily Tidings on June 11, 1986, Bert Greer first took the reins as editor, publisher and owner of the Ashland Tidings in 1911, and the Greer family owned the paper from 1911 until 1950.

Under Mr. Greer's ownership, the paper changed from a biweekly to a daily starting in September 1919. He purchased the Burbank Review in California in 1920 and divided his time between the two sites until his passing due to cancer in 1926 in Oxnard, Calif.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.

Editor's note, added Jan. 7: We stand corrected here at Since You Asked HQ, and we give credit where credit’s due. Thanks to further digging by history sleuth extraordinaire Bill Miller, we now know that a 1912 libel charge against Ashland Tidings publisher Bert R. Greer, actually did make it to trial. A front page story in the Mail Tribune on April 3, 1913, noted that the case went to trial, and, after a jury deliberated for seven hours, Mr. Greer was acquitted.


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