'Very respected': Longtime MNC journalist, editor James Beaty dies at age 72

May 13—A longtime McAlester News-Capital journalist and editor who died unexpectedly is being remembered as "an old-fashioned reporter."

According to the family, MNC Managing Editor James Beaty died May 12 following a medical emergency.

Beaty reported for the MNC for more than 38 years and recently celebrated his 72nd birthday on May 3.

The award-winning journalist started his career in 1985 after graduating from East Central University in Ada. Beaty was also a graduate of Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton and Hartshorne High School.

Beaty's writing over his career helped expose several issues related to corruption and nepotism in local governments that led to dismissals, resignations, and even criminal charges against several individuals — earning him several state and national awards for his reporting.

His weekly Ramblin' Round music column was a favorite, with his writings making their way onto music forums across the globe.

His reporting lauded him into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2017.

"I've been lucky to work with some great editors and great reporters and great publishers through the years," Beaty said in 2017 after he learned of his induction into the Hall of Fame. "Starting with Owen Jones, who was the first editor who hired me full-time. He was the editor when I started, and he became the publisher."

When asked in 2017 what was some of his most memorable stories he reported on, the first he described was "the most historically significant event of his career."

Beaty said he was only one of a handful of journalists that covered every part of the Terry Nichols trial from pre-trial motions to sentencing in 2004. Nichols was charged by the State of Oklahoma with 161 counts of first-degree murder for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing.

The case was tried in Pittsburg County, following a change of venue from Oklahoma County, and was presided over by now retired Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor, who was the county's district judge at the time.

He described the event as the most significant because of the way the Oklahoma City Bombing affected not only the people of Oklahoma, but the country as well.

"It had such a deep impact on the state of Oklahoma and the nation as a whole," Beaty said. "I wanted to tell the story of the victims accurately and in a way that people could understand what was going on in our court."

Beaty said he also enjoyed writing feature stories on local people and recalled the story of Rhett Murdaugh.

According to Beaty, Murdaugh was a young boy who wanted to auction his favorite goat for a charity event with another reporter covering the initial story.

When Beaty learned that the reporter was not going to be at the auction, he volunteered to go to the auction to see what would happen to the goat. After the goat was sold, Beaty said he watched Murdaugh walk through a back door and he followed the boy to find him crying after realizing he was going to lose his goat.

Beaty said the man who purchased the goat came outside and saw the distraught boy and told the boy that he could keep the goat and the donation was still going to be made.

"That was one of my favorite stories even though it wasn't one of the historical things," Beaty said. "Stories of regular folks and regular people, they are some of my favorite ones."

Taylor said he started as a district judge in Pittsburg County in 1984 and said he spoke with Beaty almost every day during his 20 years as a district judge.

"I've dealt with a lot of journalists over my career," Taylor said. "I trusted him completely. He had my absolute trust."

Taylor described Beaty as an "old-fashioned journalist" with "ink-running through his veins."

"He was just a very respected, trusted journalist," Taylor said. "When I saw that news this morning, it really hit hard. It's almost like you can't imagine the McAlester News-Capital without James Beaty."

McAlester Mayor John Browne said Beaty was a great asset to McAlester.

"The job of the press is to make sure that elected officials do their jobs and the city does things the way they are supposed to and James was a strong advocate of making sure that we stayed within our lane," Browne said. "And he did it in such a way that it was not adversarial, he had a job to do, and he was going to do it and he was going to do it well."

Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association, said the association always admired Beaty's excellent journalism and his dedication to the community,

"He was a tough guy on the outside, but he was really a nice guy," Thomas said. "You just don't really appreciate somebody like James until you don't really have him anymore. It's really sad to hear that he's gone."

Beaty said he decided he wanted to be a writer as a youth while reading Edgar Allen Poe underneath a shade tree at his home in Hartshorne.

His love for music and poetry landed him a job as an artist in residence for the Oklahoma Arts and Humanity Council during his Summer breaks from college.

"I didn't want to be another Edgar Allan Poe," Beaty said. "There already was one. But I knew I wanted to be a writer of some type.

"I became a journalist," he said. "I'm glad I did."

Beaty said in 2017 his career would not be possible without the support of his wife, Sheri, and two daughters, Breanna and Shera.

"My wife Sheri, she's been a journalist's wife the entire time we've been married, and she's been great and understanding because we keep odd hours and she's been great and supportive," Beaty said.

Funeral arrangements were pending as of Monday afternoon and will be shared once they are made available by the Beaty family.