JENNINGS, MILTON ROBBINS, newspaperman; b. 4 March 1874 in Warsaw, N.Y., son of Edward M. Jennings and Mary Eliza Robbins; m. 1905 Carolyn Louise Sheldon of Buffalo, N.Y.; they had no children; d. 16 Feb. 1921 in Victoria.
The son of a prominent businessman and Civil War veteran, Milton R. (Bob) Jennings began his career as a reporter in Rochester and Buffalo between 1890 and 1894, while he was at the University of Rochester taking his ab. He worked for the Montreal Herald in 1894-95, then operated an advertising agency, and returned to the United States in 1896 as advertising manager of the Washington Times. From May 1897 he and a partner ran the Merchants’ Cut Service. In July 1898, during the Spanish-American War, he enlisted with the 202nd New York Volunteers and later he served in Cuba, where he also acted as a correspondent. He joined the Daily Mail and Empire in Toronto as circulation manager in 1899 and the advertising department of the Evening Telegram in 1903. For a time in 1905-9 he participated in contracting and mining ventures in Nevada and the Cobalt region of northern Ontario.
A former Toronto acquaintance, James Hossack Woods of the Calgary Herald, which was owned by William Southam*, secured an option on the Edmonton Evening Journal in 1909 and brought Jennings west as its editor and managing director. Acting on changes recommended by management consultant Albert Haynes, the Southams reorganized the Journal Company in 1911 and absorbed it the following year. From the time Jennings’s name had first appeared in the Conservative paper’s masthead, on 17 June 1909, he demonstrated a pro-business tone. In addition to joining the Rotary Club and St George’s Society, he served on Edmonton’s Board of Trade in various offices, including president (1918). In the municipal election of 1917, in a bid to sustain the city’s finances, he helped loosen the Southams’ preference for limited taxation and backed a new levy on business. Quick to understand the promotional value of aviation, in June 1919 he hired the firm of Elgin Court May and Wilfrid Reid (Wop) May* to fly bundles of the Journal to Wetaskiwin on the first commercial flight from Edmonton. Recognition came too from his keen sponsorship of the Edmonton Newsboys’ Band, organized in 1913 by news-stand owner John (Mike) Michaels.
In the field of journalism, in 1913 Jennings was involved in the reorganization of the Canadian Press Association and served as president of the Alberta and Eastern British Columbia Press Association. Five years later, during World War I, he toured the western front with other Canadian Press members. In 1919-20 he was first president of the Canadian Daily Newspapers Association. When delegates to the Imperial Press Conference of 1920 crossed Canada, he helped organize their visit to Edmonton and Jasper. Other wartime activities included his recruitment for the navy of men from Alberta’s rivers, participation in the Red Cross and Canadian Patriotic funds, and chairmanship of the Belgian Relief Committee of Northern Alberta and the local hospital committee for returned soldiers. Subsequently he served as president of the Navy League’s Edmonton branch.
Jennings died in February 1921 in Victoria, where he was recuperating after treatment in Portland, Oreg., for an illness of several months’ duration. He was buried in Edmonton Cemetery, and the Alberta legislature closed on 22 February in his honour. William Southam called him “a Canadian newspaperman of outstanding ability, vision, humanity and idealism who can ill be spared in these troublous times.” Journalists from around the world sent condolences and contributed to a fund for a memorial window in Christ Church (Anglican), which Jennings had attended.
City of Edmonton Arch., ms 324 (Edmonton Newsboys’ Band fonds), Class 1, Scrapbook: 36, 43, 52. Univ. of Rochester, Rush Rhees Library, Dept. of Rare Books and Special Coll. (Rochester, N.Y.), Alumni files, M. R. Jennings. Edmonton Journal, 16-17 Feb. 1921. Charles Bruce, News and the Southams (Toronto, 1968). Canadian annual rev., 1919-21. Directory, Toronto, 1901-6. History of Wyoming County, N.Y., with illustrations, biographical sketches and portraits of some pioneers and prominent residents (New York, 1880). Dennis Person and Carin Routledge, Edmonton: portrait of a city (Edmonton, 1981). Minko Sotiron, From politics to profit: the commercialization of Canadian daily newspapers, 1890-1920 (Montreal and Kingston, Ont., 1997). G. M. Strathern, Alberta newspapers, 1880-1982 (Edmonton, 1988). Who’s who and why, 1919/20.