James G. Stahlman was publisher of the Nashville Banner from 1930 until 1972, when he sold the newspaper to the Gannett Corporation. He inherited part of the newspaper from his grandfather, Major Edward Bushrod Stahlman, when he died in 1930; James Stahlman’s father, Edward Claiborne Stahlman, had died in a boating accident on the Cumberland River near Williams Ferry in 1904. James Stahlman became the sole owner in 1955, when he purchased the remaining stock from his uncle.
Stahlman began working for the Banner on June 1, 1912, following his graduation from high school. He continued to work for the Banner as a campus correspondent for the next four years, until his graduation from Vanderbilt University in 1916. He did graduate work at the University of Chicago for a year and then served in World War I as an infantry private.
Stahlman returned to Nashville in 1918 to become city editor of the Banner. In 1925 his grandfather named him vice-president and executive director. On August 12, 1930, Major Stahlman died, and thirty-seven-year-old James Stahlman became president and publisher of the Banner.
In 1932 Stahlman was elected president of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association (SNPA). He worked with SNPA and the American Newspaper Publishers Association in the joint fight to defeat President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to force newspapers to accept federal license under the National Recovery Act. This battle culminated in victory for the newspapers and brought Stahlman into national prominence in the newspaper field. He was director, vice-president, and at forty-four, president of the ANPA, one of its youngest ever.
In state journalism, Stahlman carried on legendary editorial battles with his Nashville competitor, the Tennessean. Compared to the pro-New Deal and pro-Democratic positions of the Tennessean, Stahlman’s paper generally was more conservative and pro-Republican.
Stahlman married Mildred Porter Thornton in 1917 and they had two daughters, Mildred and Ann. They were later divorced. In 1939 he married Effye Chumley, who was killed in a 1952 automobile accident. They had no children. In 1953 he married Gladys Breckenridge, to whom he was married at the time of his death in 1976.
Stahlman was a member of the Board of Trust at Vanderbilt University from 1927 until his death in 1976. He gave five million dollars in 1972 and 1973 to establish five chairs in the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, named in honor of his mother, father, wife, and two daughters. These and other contributions Stahlman made at the time represented the largest donations ever made by a living alumnus.
On January 14, 1972, Stahlman announced the sale of the Banner to the Gannett Corporation. Six months later, on June 1, 1972, he retired. That ended Stahlman’s sixty years of service to the Nashville Banner, forty-two of them as publisher. He died on May 1, 1976, following a stroke, which he suffered while attending a Vanderbilt board meeting.