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Sherman named Grand Marshal of Christmas parade

November 30, 2011 - A face familiar to the Oxford community for 56 years will lead the town's Christmas parade on Saturday, Dec. 3.

James A. Sherman, Sr., publisher of The Oxford Leader from 1955-93, was named Grand Marshal.

"Of course, I'm honored to be asked," he said.

Sherman is one of those family names that's synonymous with Oxford and that's because of the legacy created by its patriarch.

That legacy includes honest reporting of local events ranging from government meetings to high school sports, accurate recording of local history for future generations, and tireless promotion of local businesses, churches, charities and service clubs.

When Sherman came to Oxford in 1955, he found a town in transition. He was part of a new generation of entrepreneurs who had purchased many downtown businesses from the Old Guard.

"Oxford started to change," he said. "The (business owners) were getting older. They had gone through the war. They had been here forever. The new people came and bought them out."

Sherman could relate to these new owners because they were his age and many were World War II veterans like himself.

He forged "immediate friendships" with them and soon there were about six or seven of them, such as the bank president and owner of the men's store, who met every morning at 9 a.m. for coffee.

"I quit that because it was the middle of the morning – there was work to be done," Sherman noted.

Given he was born and raised in Michigan small towns, publishing a community newspaper was a natural fit for Sherman.

"I'm a small town boy," he said.

Sherman never had any desire to move to the proverbial 'big city' and pursue his interest in the newspaper business there.

"I'm afraid of failure," he explained. "I always felt more secure in smaller communities. I had more confidence. There was more opportunity to succeed here."

And succeed he did.

After Sherman bought the Leader, he founded The Ad-Vertiser in 1961. In the coming years, he purchased The Clarkston News (1966), The Lake Orion Review (1972) and The Davison Index (1976).

In the span of 20 years, Sherman went from publisher of a single small town newspaper to owner of a prosperous publishing chain that blanketed northern Oakland County with local information and advertising.

Helping him succeed was his wife, Hazel, who began working in the Leader office in 1957 and helped run the company right up until her passing in February 2001. They were married 51 years.

As publisher of Oxford's only newspaper, Sherman was never one to shy away from his responsibility to get involved in the community from which he earned his living.

Over the years, he served as president of the Oxford Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club of Oxford. The Rotary Clubs in both Oxford and Clarkston honored him as a Paul Harris Fellow.

He chaired the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Committee for nine years and served on the board of directors for the Dominican Sisters' DeLima Junior College on W. Drahner Rd., which only existed for about two years.

As a U.S. Navy veteran who served in WWII from 1944-46, Sherman has life memberships in both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Given the Leader was his first newspaper, Sherman felt it was only right that he live in Oxford and raise his three children here. He rented houses on Mechanic and First streets in the village until he was finally able to build a home on W. Drahner Rd. in 1971. He still lives there.

It's interesting to note the land Sherman chose for his homestead was sold to him by Brace Beemer, who was the well-known radio voice of the Lone Ranger from 1941-54.

Even though he formally retired from the newspaper publishing business in March 1993, Sherman continues to write a popular weekly column called "Jim's Jottings" (featured on Page 7), which runs in Sherman Publications' newspapers in Oxford, Lake Orion, Clarkston and Brandon.

He opines on such diverse topics as politics, his five grandchildren, current events, his dog, memories of the past, doctors, the loss of common sense and of course, bacon.

Sherman has no plans to ever leave the town that's given him so much over the last six decades. When asked what is it about Oxford he loves most, Sherman replied, "Everything – it's my life."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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