Mounted to a wall in the Pawtuxet Valley Daily Times building, Irving Hudson’s portrait spent many, many decades keeping close watch over the newspaper’s editorial staff. He watched as his wife and later his daughters took up the reins following his death in 1949; he bore witness to drastic industry changes and to the paper being renamed for Kent County.
Following a career that lasted well beyond its subject’s lifetime, the portrait has come to rest in the living room of a relative.
“The family will be glad I got it,” Everett Hudson, who’s 87, said last week, his great uncle’s portrait laid flat on a table before him. “I’m sure of that.”
Joined by his daughter Laurie Lamoureux, his cousin Donald Carpenter and Donald’s wife Marsha, Everett paid a visit to the Woonsocket Call office last week to retrieve the portrait of the former Times publisher, a large black-and-white photograph set in a vintage frame.
“It was hanging right in between the windows,” Everett said last Monday, recalling being younger and seeing the portrait perched on a wall of the Times office. “And he’d look right down at ya.”
Amby Smith, a former sports editor, told Carpenter once that Hudson had wanted the image to remain in the newsroom so that “everybody who was working could look up and see the boss.”
Hudson had been working for the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner, a weekly publication, when he and his colleague Charlie Burlingame decided to purchase the Pawtuxet Valley Daily Times. Frank Campbell, who founded the Times in 1892, had been losing money on the paper when it went up for auction in 1905.
Two years after purchasing it, Hudson bought out Burlingame and became the Times’ sole publisher and editor. And through thoughtful business management, he began to turn things around for the floundering newspaper.
“It was just a lot of hard work,” Carpenter said, adding that Hudson placed a strong focus on selling advertisements.
He was “a man of strong views,” Carpenter said of Hudson, whose brother Ellery Hudson was his and Everett’s grandfather. Born in 1873 in Phenix, Hudson was the oldest of 11 children, and to this day is remembered by his family as a distinguished patriarch.
“Irving was a very strong type of man,” said Carpenter, who called his great uncle “a nice guy all around.”
With Hudson at the helm, several of his family members worked in various roles at the paper over the years. His brother, Wilton Hudson, served as its chief editor; Everett’s mother — Hudson’s niece — wrote stories covering the center of Coventry.
“People would call and say, ‘I want this to go in the newspaper,’ and she would type it up on the typewriter and send it to uncle Wilton,” Everett recalled.
In fact, Everett, too, worked for the paper in the 1950s. A student of Coventry High School at the time, he peddled papers for 3 cents a piece, picking them up each afternoon off the press in the cellar of the Times building.
“I would get out of school 15 minutes early to take the papers off the press,” said Everett, who would then deliver papers to his father’s store.
The Pawtuxet Valley Daily Times was really something in those days, Carpenter added. Packed with news from each of the local villages, the paper covered everything — from the mundane to the extraordinary.
“Uncle Wilton, he was always with his pad, and he would write everything down,” Carpenter said of Hudson’s youngest brother, who was more than 20 years his junior.
Wilton Hudson used to have a buzzer that connected his office to the pressroom, Everett added, so that he could get in touch with staff instantly regarding last-minute production changes.
“We hadn’t gone to press yet, and he’d see something in the newspaper,” Everett recalled. “He’d buzz that buzzer, say, ‘hold the front, I want this on there,’ and we’d tear the whole front page out.”
Together, the Hudsons breathed fresh life into the once-failing newspaper. Still, working with family wasn’t always easy.
“Irving would get so mad at his brother Wilton, he’d tell him, ‘you’re fired,’” Carpenter said. “And then, Monday morning, he’d call Wilton up and say, ‘come back and get your job.’”
Hudson was a prominent figure not only within the publishing world, but in Rhode Island’s political scene, as well. He served for four years as president of the Coventry Town Council, before being elected in 1910 to serve as a representative in the General Assembly. Three years later, he was elected to the state Senate.
“Not only that,” Carpenter added, “but he was a church person.”
Hudson was a parishioner at the Methodist Church in Phenix. He loved that church, Carpenter said, and “would have had a fit” had he been alive to see the church eventually torn down.
Hudson was active in several Masonic groups, as well, and served in numerous organizations and on the boards of a number of banks.
“He also was a nature guy,” Carpenter said of Hudson, who was a director of the Rhode Island Wildlife Federation and chair of the Advisory Council of the Rhode Island Fish and Game Association. “He loved to go fishing, which is a Hudson tradition.”
In some of his fondest childhood memories, Everett is fishing on a large plot of land in Exeter owned by his great uncle.
“I used to go out and fish in a pond that he had,” said Everett, who was around 16 years old when Hudson passed away.
Hudson died at the age of 75 of prostate cancer on Feb. 25, 1949 — the same day, coincidentally, that a new Goss printing press was installed at the Times office.
Carpenter was 10 years old at the time.
“I wish that I knew him a little better,” he said.
The funeral, held at Phenix Methodist, was a who’s who of prominent Rhode Islanders. Hundreds of mourners packed the building, according to a Pawtuxet Valley Daily Times article from Feb. 28, 1949, while “scores of persons stood on the sidewalks in front of the church on Main Street, Phenix.”
“The funeral was so big, they had to have police patrolling the front of the church,” Carpenter said. “Cars were parked from Harris to Phenix.”
The newspaper article continues, “delegations of civic, fraternal, newspaper, banking and fish and game organizations from throughout the state, in all of which Mr. Hudson was prominent, joined with relatives and friends” for the funeral.
After losing her husband, Thirza Hudson became the Times’ publisher until her death in 1960, when their four daughters took over. The Times left the family’s ownership in 1975, when it was sold to Ted Holmberg.
In addition to changing the name of the paper to the Kent County Daily Times, Holmberg made a number of other changes.
“One of the things he did is he purged all the Hudson people,” Carpenter said. “I don’t know why he did that, but he did that.”
Still, at least one member of the paper’s old days remained — and, according to the sales agreement between the family and Holmberg, would always need to.
“Part of their agreement with Holmberg was that Irving Hudson’s portrait remain in the newsroom,” Carpenter said.
And there it stayed for decades, watching over generation after generation of reporters and editors. Even when the editorial staff relocated downstairs, the portrait moved, too, settling into a spot on a desk on the first floor.
Carpenter said he was “overjoyed” to know that the portrait would be returning to the family.
When the aging building at 1353 Main Street in West Warwick was sold earlier this year, some of the Times memorabilia that had filled it was donated to the local historical society. But the portrait, alongside a few other things, was kept in a storage unit.
“I was sitting in my chair, thinking about it,” Everett said. “I said, ‘geez, I wonder where that portrait went? And that’s when I called the paper.”
Hudson would be glad to know that his portrait stayed in the building right up until the newspaper left it, his family agreed last week. And he would be just as pleased, they added, to know that it has finally retired to live among family in his hometown of Coventry.