A Harford newspaper turns 140 The Aegis: In growing county, it's one of few community institutions bridging old and new.


WHEN THE late William S. James, the former state treasurer and president of the Maryland Senate, was introducing legislation as a young member of the House of Delegates from Havre de Grace, so the story goes, he was admonished by a colleague: He had failed to show the proposal first to the editor of Harford County's hometown newspaper, the Aegis. Mr. James realized his omission and, after the fact, ran his idea past Editor John D. Worthington Jr.

Opined the Aegis' subsequent editorial of Mr. James' bill: "Good idea, poorly presented."

Many a Harford politician has curried the support of a Worthington over the years. The family bought the paper back in 1904 and has been a fixture ever since, even after the Baltimore Sun purchased it in 1986. The Aegis marks its 140th birthday with a community celebration tomorrow at 10 Hays St., Bel Air.

John Cox began the then-Southern Aegis and Harford County Intelligencer in 1856. The name "Aegis," derived from the shield of Zeus in Greek mythology, was adopted to evoke protection for the interests of Harford residents. The founding nameplate also reflected the paper's sympathies for the South. So impassioned, in fact, was support for the Confederacy among Harford's citizenry -- including one John Wilkes Booth -- that Union soldiers traveling south by train switched to boats from Perryville to Baltimore to bypass the county.

In 1904, John D. Worthington Sr. bought the weekly. His great-grandson, John D. Worthington IV, is still involved in the management of the operation. Even John IV's late father, much less his great-grandfather, wouldn't recognize Harford in 1996, though. It's no longer the county of Betsy the cow; it's now a place where warehouse stores and microbreweries and bookstores with cappuccino bars take root.

Like Frederick and Charles and Maryland's other rapidly suburbanizing counties, Harford is struggling to retain a sense of community. With its reports on local government, community fairs and youth sports -- another Calvin Ripken Jr., the pride of Aberdeen, could be lurking within its Little League notes -- the Aegis is one of the few local institutions John Worthington Sr. would recognize.

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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