Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

February 20, 2012

Independent editor dies at 68

ASHLAND — Editor and general manager Michael D. Reliford, a 47-year employee of The Independent, died early Monday morning at King’s Daughters Medical Center. He was 68.

Reliford joined the sports staff of The Independent in 1965 and two years later was named assistant sports editor. He was named sports editor in 1971, a position he had for 19 years. He moved from sports to news in 1990 when he was named managing editor. He was named editor in 1998 and in 2006 also became this newspaper’s general manager.

Independent publisher Eddie Blakeley called Reliford “an old-school newspaper man. There was not much polish to him but he was as good as they get.”

Managing editor Mark Maynard had similar sentiments about his longtime boss and friend.

“He was a beloved character in this community who brought a lot of life and intregity to this newspaper over the years,” Maynard said. “Nobody loved this newspaper more than Mike Reliford. He had a way with people that was amazing. He cared about them and he cared about the daily product that we produce here.”

Former managing editor Stan Champer joined the Independent’s staff in 1964 and, except for when Champer took a leave of absence to complete his college studies, he worked closely with Reliford from 1965 until Champer’s retirement in January of 2009.

“He was the brother I never had and a friend I could always count on,” Champer said of his former colleague.

“Mike had a big heart and it held a lot that was dear to him,” said Champer. “First and foremost was his family. His love for those in his family circle was deep and everlasting.”

Champer added that Reliford “cherished his ties with a host of friends extending back to his early school days in Ashland and including all the friendships along life’s way.”

Reliford, a native and lifelong resident of Ashland, had a special place in his heart for his hometown.

“He loved Ashland and the people of this area,” Champer added. “It was this genuine quality that made his many years at The Independent so special. In print and in his other responsibilities at the newspaper, he was always an advocate for the community. Mike enriched a lot of lives.”

Former Independent writer George Wolfford, who worked closely with Reliford until his retirement 14 years ago, said Reliford was a “pro who gave a lot of attention to the community.’

Until Reliford’s declining health prevented him from doing so, Wolfford said Reliford was one of those journalists “who didn’t just go home after work. Instead, he went out and hung around downtown. He learned a lot about what was going on in town just by hanging around downtown.”

Former Ashland Tomcat football coach Herb Conley said Reliford “probably saved my job.”

“They were ready to run me out of town until Mike wrote the great column that pretty much told it like it is,” Conley said. “That night we beat Ironton, which started a long winning streak,” adding that Reliford “probably put his own career on the line with the column.”

Conley called Reliford an excellent sports writer.  

“All the coaches in the area liked him. I never head anyone say anything against him,” Conley said. Unlike some other sports writers, Conley said Reliford “really understood the game. He knew what made a good offense and he could always recognize a good defense. He also knew when you had made some really bad coaching mistakes.”

Most importantly, Conley said Reliford was always “fair and he was always for the kids.”

Longtime Ashland Tomcat broadcaster Dicky Martin said Reliford will be sorely missed. “I wish I was half the announcer that he was a writer,” Martin said. “He was the best, that’s all there is to it. God bless him.”

He is survived by his wife, son and three grandsons. Funeral services and burial will be Thursday at Steen Funeral Home-13th Street Chapel in Ashland. Visitation is Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2649.

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