News of the early morning blaze that destroyed the Memphis Silver Star News spread almost as quickly as the fire, itself.
Tuesday, November 29 was anything but normal. Owner and publisher Jimmy D. Williams stood with other Orange Mound residents watching as firefighters battled to bring the fire under control.
“It was difficult to watch everything going up in smoke,” said Williams, who is also a minister. “Our faith in God has given us the strength to continue our work. The Silver Star News will continue. We’ve never missed a week, and we’re not going to start now.”
And continue it has. The Thursday (Dec. 1) immediately following the fire, a new edition was produced. Another followed on December 8. On Tuesday (Dec. 13), Williams and his news staff were working on this week’s edition. He had little time for an interview.
“We are in production today, you know,” said Williams. “This week’s paper will be out tomorrow, and I just don’t have much time for questions today.”
One last question: “Are you planning to rebuild?”
“Of course, we are going to rebuild. There is no question that I will work toward fully restoring our building to the way it was before the fire. It’s just going to take some time.”
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
According to Williams, archives of each weekly edition for the newspaper’s 25 years were housed in the building as well as historic photo files.
The expansive, two-story structure also housed the Memphis Candle Light Ballroom, a popular setting for weddings, receptions, anniversary celebrations, after-five church banquets, and other functions.
Whittier Sengstacke, Orange Mound resident and member of the Sengstacke publishing family, is glad for the paper’s plan to rebuild.
“I live just a few blocks down from the building, but I didn’t see or hear about the fire until the news report,” said Sengstacke. “The Orange Mound community is home to many small businesses. The Silver Star News building was an important landmark. We all want to see it restored.”
Williams can’t say when, but he will rebuild on the 300 block site of Park Avenue, “the home of Silver Star.”
“Silver Star News is more than a building,” he said. “We are committed to our readers and the community. There are so many great stories to be told, so many great people doing good things. We ask everyone to stand with us in prayer at this time. As God continues to help us, we will continue to publish.”