WASHINGTON, D.C. — Passed Gallia resident and iconic newspaper columnist Oscar Odd McIntyre’s life was presented before researchers at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History Feb. 13 by Newseum COO Scott Williams.
Williams, author of the biography “An Odd Book: How the First Modern Pop Culture Reporter Conquered New York,” visited Gallipolis in April of last year to present his research to the community in the form of a question and answer session in the Ariel Opera House. The Smithsonian presentation was held in the S.C. Johnson Conference Center in the museum’s west wing.
“It’s been amazing having the opportunity to share Odd’s story on podcasts, radio shows and in media interviews,” said Williams. “I hope it contributes in a small way to helping people remember Odd’s contribution to journalism.”
Williams gave his presentation to a gathering of archivists, historians and others who work for the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Students of American University were also present.
“They were really fascinated with Odd and his life and career,” said the author. “It was really an honor to get to share more about O. O. McIntyre with such an esteemed audience.”
McIntyre started as a Gallipolis writer before being read by millions in the 1920s and 30s, growing into the most popular syndicated columnist of his time. Williams said previously towards the end of McIntyre’s life, the columnist’s syndicate reported he had around 100 million readers a day. McIntyre began working as a journalist but would eventually regard himself more as a writer for entertainment and was featured in publications across the country. His wife, Maybelle, served as the engine of the McIntyre brand business and she would argue for McIntyre to have one of the highest paid syndicated columnist contracts of the day. He and his wife for a period of time lived in the Hotel Majestic with free room and board due to his publicity work. McIntyre would befriend the likes of Fred Astaire, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Chaplin and more.
“Odd was from here in Gallipolis and he moved to New York,” said Williams during his question and answer session at the Ariel. “He never forgot about Gallipolis and never tried to be better than (it). In fact, he positioned himself as small town boy who was in the big city and if he encountered Charlie Chaplin in the street he wrote from the way that someone would write as if they weren’t jaded. He wrote about how excited he was to see him … I think people in small towns were fascinated by what he was writing. They could relate.”
According to Williams’ research, McIntyre was challenged by obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety and severe depression despite having written about life in New York and his adventures there. Later in his life, he would only leave home at night and observe New York’s nightlife from the window of a Rolls-Royce driven by a chauffeur. McIntyre died 80 years ago on Feb. 14.
The Newseum in Washington, D.C., serves to engage the public in a broader understanding of First Amendment freedoms and the importance of free press in the country. It is considered an interactive museum and exhibits items and photographs from key moments in media history.
Williams earned his degree in journalism from the University of Memphis.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.