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Mack Sauer: The Will Rogers of Highland County

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, when we last confabulated, the palaver made its way to the life and times of Mack Sauer, the nationally known humorist, speaker and radio personality who was a former newspaper editor and publisher.

McKinley Hobart Sauer was born in the summer of 1896 – more than 122 years ago – in Scioto County, but spent most of his life as a Highland County resident.

So why was he named McKinley Hobart? Glad you asked.

My cousin, Ellen Pennington, daughter of longtime Lynchburg dentist, the late Dr. C. Ted Roush, wrote an article for Highland County Magazine in 1997 on Sauer that answers that very question. So I’ll let her answer it for you fine folks.

On July 28, 1896, Democrat Grover Cleveland was in the White House and was being blamed for the depression that was plaguing the nation.

And on that date, a little boy was born to good Republican parents. They optimistically named him McKinley Hobart, since Ohio native William McKinley was running on the Republican ticket for President of the United States and Garret Hobart was the vice-presidential candidate.

The Republicans won the presidential election, the depression abated and McKinley “Mack” Sauer grew up to become a legend in Highland County and elsewhere.

With no further eloquence from me, I’ll let Ellen continue with hers from two decades past…

The mere mention of the name of Mack Sauer is bound to bring a smile or laugh from longtime county residents. They remember his radio show, “Breakfast at Sauer’s;” they remember him as longtime editor of The Leesburg Citizen; they remember his entertaining speeches, his editorials and his books.

The writings remain a lasting window into Sauer’s character, often ahead of their time and permeating with patriotism, a sense of community values and Sauer’s staunch Republican views.

Mack Sauer started his newspaper career at the Athens Messenger while a student at Ohio University. He later worked for various papers around the state including the Portsmouth Times, Ripley Bee, Columbus Dispatch, Middletown Journal, Sandusky News and Greenfield Republican.

In 1935, Mack Sauer became owner, publisher and editor of The Leesburg Citizen – “Ohio’s Best Weekly Tabloid, $2.50 per year,” his advertisements proclaimed.

Sauer bragged about the Citizen’s far-reaching subscriptions and loyal readership and often made friendly jabs in his editorials at the Hillsboro Press Gazette and publisher/editor H.E. “Dike” Barnes.

Sauer issued three collections of his homespun humor with “Not Possible to Classify” in 1921; “The Editor Squeaks” in 1941; and “Ramblings and Rumblings” in 1949. Over the years, national magazines such as Reader’s Digest and Colliers’ included some of his short sketches and poems in their publications.

Ann Montgomery, daughter of Mack and Edith Sauer, says that many who run across copies of Sauer’s second book, “The Editor Squeaks,” think they have a unique copy judging from the childish scribblings inside both the front and back covers. Ann recalls creating some of the doodles, writings and games with her parents and with brother Mack Jr., and she says that these were published as part of the book.

Sauer similarly used the inside covers of his book “Ramblings and Rumblings” for a farcical playbill and photographs from his travels. The dust jacket features photographs as well, and on the back Sauer is pictured with a group of women holding songbooks, advertising the “Breakfast at Sauer’s Friday Hymn Sing.”

The popular half-hour program, “Breakfast at Sauer’s,” aired daily over Middletown, Ohio station WPFB-AM 910 and later over WSRW. In addition to church choirs, musical groups from local schools and communities were often a part of the 7:30 a.m. variety show that broadcast from the Sauers’ home for many years and later from a small studio built onto the back of the Leesburg Citizen building.

As we discussed last time, McKinley Hobart “Mack” Sauer passed away in 1960 at the age of 62. Sauer’s children that my cousin Ellen Pennington interviewed back in 1997, Ann Sauer Montgomery passed away in 2016 at the age of 87, and Mack Sauer Jr. passed away later that same year at the age of 81.

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next week with more on the life and times of Mack Sauer.

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company, is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees and is a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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