Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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William Henry Fischer

Born in Bass River, Burlington Township, Fischer moved with his family to Toms River in 1871. From 1873 to 1883, he attended the Village School. During this time an opportunity arose for him to become a newspaper delivery boy for the New Jersey Courier. This stimulated his interest in the newspaper world, later to become his life's work.

In 1883, Mr. Samuel Jennings, the owner of the Courier encouraged him to study the printing trade at which time Fischer became an apprentice at the Philadelphia Record. There he learned the mechanics of printing a paper, reporting, writing copy, and was paid $3.50 a week.

He returned to Toms River in 1887 and found work at the Courier. In 1891 he and Charles T. Patterson purchased the Courier for $40.00. Upon the death of Patterson in 1896, "Will" as he was commonly known, became the sole owner and editor. It was said that he could fill in any area of the business when it was needed.

Through the 1900's until his death he served in many public offices including Clerk of the Board of Freeholders, Clerk of the New Jersey Senate, Leader of the Republican Party prior to T.A. Mathis, one of the directors of Dover Mutual Savings and Loan, Trustee of Paul Kimball Hospital (founded in 1923), Director of the Ocean County Trust Corp. of Lakewood and member of the Official Board of the First Methodist Church of Toms River. Fischer's editorials had an impact on all events that took place during the years he owned the Courier. He gained a reputation throughout the state as a "fighting editor." In 1901, he objected vigorously in an editorial that overloaded barges that floundered were creating hazards in the inlet; in 1904, he commented on exhibits in the St. Louis Exposition of oyster and clams but urged a cranberry exhibit which could open new markets for Ocean County; in 1914, he warned of war propaganda eminating from London; in 1915, he supported women's suffrage; and in 1923, urged law enforcement to do their jobs instead of masked men (KKK) taking matters into their own hands.

He set a high moral tone for the paper and would not take advertising from any known gamblers. Ironically, it was a heated battle over local gambling that undoubtedly led to his death at the age of 68.

In July of 1934, Fischer wrote of the Royal Showboat anchored off Point Pleasant Beach and that gambling, an illegal act, was taking place on board. Local churches opposed the gambling. On August 17, an Ocean County Grand Jury subpoenaed an H. Rask, Rev. Fox, and W. H. Fischer to testify. Following this court date on August 24, the Royal Showboat was given another liquor license. The Dover Township Mayor and five councilmen endorsed the action. Fischer complained openly and bitterly of Republican political leadership influencing the courts and the town council. The battle raged on with community leaders taking opposing sides. An August 31 article reported that the police suspected a member of the Detroit Royal Purple Gang of murder and that the Showboat owners would pay for his bail. The drama that ensued from all this would make a fascinating book with charges, counter charges, threats, indictments, political power struggles, and the N.J. Press Association taking up Fischer's fight for freedom of the press. Related stories about the troubles appeared in all the major state papers of the day.

At the height of the dispute, Fischer died from a heart attack at his desk in the Courier office with his feet propped upon the desk and wearing his green eye snade, common to newspapermen of the day. It was in this position that he was found in December of 1935. He had been composing his yearly Christmas poem for his friends.

Will Fischer never married and Hall of Fame researchers have been unable to trace any living descendents. The Courier became part of the legacy of today's Ocean County Observer. Chuck Triblehorn, current editor of the Observer, will accept Fischer's posthumous award. It is very appropriate that the Hall of Fame medallion and the honor attached thereto will find a home where it belongs -- in an editor's office.

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