Mark George remembers his father, Marcus George, as a hardcore, old-school journalist who worked six days a week and believed strongly in objectivity.
“He believed in limiting opinions to the editorial page, where it was the opinion of the newspaper and not a single reporter,” said Mark George, an investment advisor at Heritage Asset Managers in Little Rock.
Marcus George spent nearly 30 years working at the Arkansas Democrat. It was his great love of journalism that led him and his wife, Ruby Lee George, to donate $228,000, to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for scholarships for journalism students.
After Marcus George passed away in 2010 and Ruby George in 2014, their son, Mark George, made the donation to UALR on his parents’ behalf in January 2015.
“Education was important to him and my mother both, but my father could never serve on public entities like the school board, because it would have been a conflict of interest. They had to find ways to serve on the ground without compromising his objectivity,” Mark George said.
Marcus George started his journalism career because of an enticing offer from his uncle, K. August Engel, the former owner, president, and general manager of the Arkansas Democrat.
“My great uncle told my dad if he got a degree in journalism he would give him a job, which was kind of an attractive option,” Mark George said.
So Marcus George headed to the University of Texas to earn a degree in journalism. His studies were interrupted by a tour of duty as a navigator with the United States Air Force during World War II.
Upon returning home, he went on a blind date set up by an Air Force buddy, which is how he met Ruby Lee. The two were married in 1945. He went back and finished his degree and then moved to Little Rock.
Ruby George raised three children while her husband worked as the city editor at the Arkansas Democrat. Mark George remembers his mother as a kind, hard-working woman who was an excellent seamstress, a problem solver, and loved to teach swimming lessons during the summer.
“She didn’t go out searching for causes, but when she saw things that she did not agree with or realized something could be done better, she was not the person who sat back and said someone should do something about it. She was the kind of person who did something about it,” Mark George said.
At one point, Mark George recalled how his mother was not pleased about the lunches the elementary schools were serving her children.
“Rather than talking about it, she spent days and days at the school teaching them how to better prepare meals that were nutritious and delicious,” he said.
At the Arkansas Democrat, Engel made the same offer of a job to another nephew, Chase Stanley Berry, who was a first cousin to Marcus George. Berry started working at the Arkansas Democrat in 1945 in the advertising department.
Upon Engel’s death in 1968, Marcus George took over as editor and Berry became the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat, and the cousins worked alongside each other until the newspaper was sold in 1974.
Afterward, Marcus George became president of Arkansas Television, which owned KTHV-TV Channel 11, from which he retired after 20 years.
“My dad was very funny with an incredibly dry wit,” Mark George said. “It didn’t matter how public the place was, he would crack a joke. He was incredibly smart and hard working and dedicated. I never used a dictionary until I got to college, because I would just ask my dad. Words were his business.”
Since Engel was so instrumental in Marcus George’s journalism career, the Georges made the UALR donation in Engel’s name.
“My dad’s whole career was based off the kindness and thoughtfulness of Mr. Engel. He had been a civic leader in town and had taken an interest in the university, Little Rock University at the time. To honor him and his relationship to the university, the donation was made to promote the study of journalism,” he said.
The banquet room in the Bailey Alumni Center is also named Engel Hall after several of Engel’s nieces and nephews made a donation in his name. Mark George even carries the middle name of Engel after his great uncle, whom he remembers as a distinguished, old-fashioned newspaperman.
“I don’t think I ever saw my great uncle in anything other than a suit,” he said. “He was very distinguished, very much a civic leader. I remember he drove a big old Cadillac, a monstrous thing. He was a member of the Little Rock Country Club, and he liked to smoke cigars.”
In addition to his journalism career, Marcus George served on many charitable and civic boards, but he was most proud of his involvement with the Rotary Club. He served as president of Downtown Rotary Club 99 in 1979-80 and as Rotary International governor for District 6150 in 1982-83.