View other columns by Mark Kennedy
The old desk is completely unpretentious.
Sixty-five inches wide and 37 inches deep, it features walnut veneers and eight drawers to store file folders and supplies. With its brass pulls and carved molding, it's conservative but handsome.
In the past month, the desk has made a cross-country journey from a flooring company building in Dalton, Ga., to the executive suites of the New York Times building in Manhattan.
The desk, originally the property of New York Times patriarch Adolph Ochs, of Chattanooga, has been owned for the last five decades by Burton Brown, 83, a retired lawyer and carpet company CEO from North Georgia.
Brown says he bought the desk in the mid-1960s from the T.H. Payne Office Supply store in downtown Chattanooga. He was told the desk came from the office of Ruth Holmberg, former publisher of the Chattanooga Times and granddaughter of Ochs, who was remodeling her 10th Street office at the time.
Brown says he was told the desk had belonged to Ochs, and that the newspaper owner had another one just like it in New York. Ochs, as many Chattanoogans know, first owned the Chattanooga Times in the late 19th century and went on to buy the financially struggling New York Times in 1896. His heirs still control the New York Times Co. today.
"It was solid, handsome and understated," Brown recalls. "The desk I had at the time was a big, bank-looking desk. It was too pretentious. The [Ochs] desk captured my imagination."
Brown says after he bought the desk he immediately had it refinished - "It was in pretty rough shape" - and then had it delivered to his law office in Rossville. Over the years, it moved with him as he became CEO of a custom carpet-manufacturing mill, Burtco Enterprises, in Dalton.
Eventually, Brown gave the Ochs desk to his daughter, Elizabeth Moore, a carpet company executive, who continued to use it until the company was sold in 2014. Recently, Moore decided to contact Michael Golden, Holmberg's son and Ochs' great-grandson, in New York to offer to return the desk to the family.
"In the years to come, I think it will mean more to their family than it does to mine," Moore explained.
Late last month, the desk was shipped to the Big Apple, where it has found a new home in the New York Times offices.
"The desk arrived and is now on the 16th floor of our building, which is where the executives and our boardroom are," Golden, vice chairman of the New York Times Co., wrote in a recent email. "Among the items we put on the desk is a photo of Adolph Ochs and his wife, Effie."
It's a fitting final destination for an important journalism artifact.
Do Unto Others ...
Changing gears ...
If you're looking for a good way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo today, here's a thought.
Elizabeth Gentry, 20, of Flintstone, Ga., needs your help to raise $3,300 for a Christian mission trip to Zimbabwe, Africa.
Gentry, a member of Calvary Chapel on Broad Street, said La Familia restaurant, at 516 Chickamauga Ave. in Rossville, has partnered with her to donate a portion of their cheesecake sales today to her mission fund. Flowers will also be sold at the restaurant to help pay for the trip, she said.
Gentry, who works at Home Depot, said she feels called to mission work. She has raised about $1,200 so far, she said.
"I'm a baby in Christ," she explained. "I've had a tough life. I've struggled with lots of things."
She said her mission trip to Africa will involve working with orphans.
"A lot of the kids there are unloved," she said. "Some of them don't have parents around."
For more information, or to contribute directly, contact Gentry at email@example.com.
To suggest a human interest story contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.