Bill Caldwell: In 1911 a trapped miner gives telephone interview as rescuers work to free him

Rescuers worked for three days to retrieve Joseph Clary from a collapsed drift in the White Oak mine in the summer of 1911. On August 2, he gave a telephone interview to Globe reporter Ray Cochranover a line dropped to him while workers sought to secure his escape route. Globe file

He was known as “Mr. Joplin Globe.”

And he got one of the biggest scoops ever in the history of the paper, which turned 125 years old this month.

Ray Cochran’s long tenure at The Joplin Globe included two world wars, the Great Depression, the rise and fall of the mining industry, the transition of Joplin from boomtown to regional hub, and 10 presidents, from Theodore Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy.

In all, Cochran worked for the Globe from 1906 to 1963, including a half century as managing editor.

His, by the way, is not the longest tenure among Globe employees. That record surely belongs to Joe Schulte, who started in September of 1896 — once month after the Globe was founded, and retired in February of 1961. That’s more than 64 years — 12 presidents. Schulte’s first job was firing the boiler for the steam-operated press. Another job was meeting the 1 a.m. Missouri Pacific passenger train when it arrived and bringing the telegraph news to the Globe that it would then print on the front page.

Getting the news then was a little easier, as the city marshal kept an office and a cell in the building shared with the Globe, and the Joplin City Council met on the second floor of that building.

Cochran joined the Globe in 1906 — 10 years after it was founded — as a Galena, Kansas, reporter, having originally started a few months earlier as a reporter for the News Herald. He switched to Joplin coverage in 1908, reporting about mining and the building of the Connor Hotel. He would have been at the Globe in 1907, when the News Herald plant was dynamited. No one was killed.

The Globe wrote that it would “be glad to join efforts with you (the News Herald) in hunting down the vandal who has done Joplin an irreparable wrong.”

Cochran left and worked a couple of years at other newspapers in the West, returning in 1910 to become the Globe’s city editor. He became the managing editor of the Globe and then of the News Herald when those papers merged in 1922. He was here when the Titantic sank, and the Lusitania, when Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, when Wall Street crashed, and when Bonnie and Clyde fled Joplin after shooting two law officers to death. He was here when Pearl Harbor was bombed, when Harry Truman became president, and through the beginning of the Cold War.

In his position, he hired a number of those who carried on the work, some into the 21st century.

Cochran also was on duty in 1911 when a Joplin miner, Joseph Clary, 32, became trapped in a drift 90 feet below the surface by a cave-in at the White Oak mine in Villa Heights. The effort to reach him involved hundreds of people and was, as you might guess, front-page news. It took three days, but other miners finally punched a shaft into that drift.

“Boys, he lives,” a miner on the surface shouted, prompting cheers from the crowd.

That shaft became a lifeline, as first whiskey, water, milk, tobacco and fried chicken were lowered. Then came an electric light and a phone line. Clary called his family, but the next call went to the Globe, with Cochran on the paper’s end. Clary told him what happened.

Cochran congratulated Clary for “the plucky fight you have made.”

“How are you feeling, Mr. Clary?”

“Well, it’s a little bit cool, but I’m all right.”

“How are your accommodations?”

“They are all right now — I have a light and a telephone.”

“You say you have a light?”

“Yes, I have now.”

“Can you see sufficiently to read in the mine?”

“Yes, I read this morning’s Globe.”

“Good: We’ll send you some more later papers in the morning.”

“Send them down. I’ll certainly read them.”

Clary was brought up safely the next day.

Cochran also covered over the decades the evolution of what a Globe editorial called the “mishmash of rough-and-tumble mining communities into a stabilized region of diversified industry.” It was that editorial, printed in 1963, just after Cochran died at age 78, that called him “Mr. Joplin Globe.”

The paper also characterized Cochran as the “dean of the newspaper fraternity of his native Tri-State District.”

Cowgill Blair, who was president of The Joplin Globe in 1963, and who had worked with Cochran for decades, called him “the best newspaper editor in the history of Joplin.”

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