Growing up, Rick Gunter ’67 would visit his traveling Southern Baptist uncle’s home to type out his name on an old Royal typewriter. Gunter fell in love with the smell of ink and the look of his name on paper, gleaming like an actor’s name on a Broadway bill.

In high school, Gunter wrote a journalistic piece on the 1960 election between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, which he took to the Tri-County News in Spruce Pine, N.C. The editors published the piece and let him submit a series of features on that year’s election. They told Gunter he had a future as a journalist.

“I was living through a politically tumultuous time,” Gunter said.

Writing was his chosen means to make sense of the changing world and to express his truth during a time marked by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

Even though Gunter’s father only had a high school education, he read newspapers avidly and encouraged young Gunter to read journals from all over the country. His father would discuss news stories from across the globe during supper and invite Gunter to join the conversation. However, as a first-generation student from a working-class family, Gunter’s opportunities for higher education were limited. He only applied to Berea College. He still remembers the day his father brought him his acceptance letter. While Gunter was working his part-time job at a service station, his father drove up with a thick envelope that contained instructions on transitioning to Berea College.

At Berea, Gunter deepened his understanding of the power of words to convey the nuances of truth. He made a habit of reading the Louisville Times every day in the lobby of Pearson’s Residence Hall. As a political science major, Gunter investigated history and politics with a critical eye and deepened his commitments to interraciality and social justice.

“All of us in that student body between 1963-67 were from impoverished backgrounds, and most of us were from the southern Appalachian Mountains,” Gunter said. “We had grown up in some racially charged places. Suddenly, we found ourselves at Berea living in an interracial community that had the distinction of being the first interracial college or university in the American South. I became a Berean for life.”

Gunter remembers Dr. Richard Allen Heckman, the professor whose critical examination of American history taught him the need to tell the stories that are often pushed to the periphery. Gunter became the managing editor of the Pinnacle, Berea’s student-run college newspaper, his senior year and continued perfecting his craft. Berea’s liberal arts curriculum imbibed Gunter with the skills to understand world events from diverse perspectives.

His relentless practice and devotion earned him a position at the Asheville Times in his home state and later the Asheville Citizen, where he worked under the guidance of editors who pushed Gunter to continuously improve his work. He relocated to Florida to work for the Winter Haven News Chief and then to Virginia to write for the Staunton News-Leader.

After 16 years writing for various newspapers, Gunter bought the Crewe-Burkeville Journal, a weekly newspaper, in 1999.

The publication brings the power of independent journalism to the rural county of Nottoway, Va. Gunter runs the print newspaper alongside his wife June, and together, they have overcome the challenges of the digitized world where people get their information online. He seeks to keep the traditions of print journalism alive and provide his subscriber base with the pleasure of holding newspapers in hand. He believes that he has a greater degree of accountability as a local brick-and-mortar organization, and his subscribers are welcome to question his sources and views.

“We have the obligation to the public to try to get this right,” Gunter said. “My wife and I always say that we’re in the business of writing the first draft of history.”

Portrait of Rick Gunter '67, June Gunter, Pattie Rosenberg and Stuart Rosenberg standing in downtown Burkesville, Va.

Patti and Stuart Rosenberg have been loyal subscribers of the Crewe-Burkeville Journal since they moved to their farm in Burke-
ville, Va., after retirement. The couple was captivated by the fairness of Gunter’s journalism and the veracity of his editorials.
“The editorials were especially well-written and fearless in standing up for human dignity, fairness and justice and holding leaders at all levels accountable for their actions,” they said.
It was within the pages of the journal that the Rosenbergs first came across the Berea College logo and name. They became curious about the alma mater of the journalist they admired and trusted as a source of information.
Patti and Stuart visited Berea’s campus to glimpse at its everyday functioning and to see how the College implemented the tenets of its commitments to social justice.
“We liked the transparency, whether we were talking to the CFO, or a professor or a student, everybody was completely open, or we felt they were completely open, about the challenges and the rewarding parts [of being a Berean],” they said.
They decided to support a future generation of Berea students by establishing the Rick ’67 and Deborah June Gunter Scholarship Fund, which will contribute to Berea’s Tuition Promise Scholarships.

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