Jim Aycock, former owner and publisher of Black Mountain News, dies at 83

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Jim Aycock, 83, the former owner of Black Mountain News, died Oct. 7.

James "Jim" Aycock loved the mountains. Even when career opportunities were presented to him in other parts of the state, Aycock couldn't leave the mountains.

"Once he got to the mountains, he just loved it and he never wanted to go anywhere else," said Nell Aycock Richardson, Aycock's younger sister.

Aycock died Oct. 7 at age 83 from a heart attack. According to his family, he had no previous history of heart problems or conditions, and his death was unexpected.

Aycock grew up with his younger sister and twin brother in Currituck County, the northeastern most county in the state. He graduated from Elizabeth City High School in 1956 and from UNC Chapel Hill with a BA in journalism in 1961.

Jim and his identical twin Frank were inseparable, able to match each other in humor and storytelling. Richardson recalled the two brothers recounting full Johnny Carson routines on the family's weekly Sunday afternoon Zoom call, a new tradition as a result of the pandemic. 

"James was seven minutes younger than Frank," Richardson said. "They could almost read each other's minds." 

Aycock's family said one of the brothers could be watching the same news program, pick up the phone to call the other, and both brothers would already know what the other was thinking. 

Frank remembered taking long, cross-country road trips with his brother, a favored activity of the two. 

"We would take long trips together, read the same books, watch the same programs," Frank said. 

The twins' birthday was Sept. 25. Frank and his wife drove up from Charlotte to spend the day with Aycock and his wife, Patsy Keever. The birthday trip was the last time Frank saw his brother.

Keever said Aycock had always wanted to own a small newspaper in a small town. He worked for news organizations all over the state before moving to Black Mountain in 1969 to become the publisher of the town's newspaper. 

Aycock had a passion for news. In 1985, he became the sole owner of Black Mountain News, a position he held for 10 years before selling the paper to Gannett, the parent company of the Asheville Citizen Times, in 1995. 

"He used to keep me fascinated with the stories and experiences," Keever said. "Reporting the type of thing you don't see in the regular Citizen Times." 

The couple met during Keever's congressional campaign in 2004. Aycock volunteered on the campaign, the only other person besides Keever over 30. 

As a small town reporter, Aycock's familiarity with the district served as an asset to the campaign. He became Keever's driver, entertaining her for nearly 10 months with stories of his life and adventures with his brother. 

Keever ended up losing the congressional campaign. 

"But I gained Jim," she laughed. 

The weekly Zoom call allowed the family to stay in close contact with one another, an important addition to each member's routine, particularly during the pandemic. With the unexpected passing of Aycock, family members said they appreciated Keever's role in his life, making his last few years among the happiest they had seen.

In addition to the mountains and his work as a journalist, Aycock's other passion was for Carolina basketball. His sister warned never to mention Lennie Rosenbluth in front of Aycock unless one was willing to be subjected to a lengthy discussion of the undefeated 1957 UNC basketball team.

"We used to say 'We don't want to hear you talk about it' but now we wish we could hear that lecture again," Richardson said.

An active member of the local community, Aycock served on the boards of the Swannanoa Valley Dr. MLK Jr. Memorial Corporation, Swannanoa Valley Medical Center, Black Mountain Foundation, Community Council of the State Women’s Prison, Black Mountain Swannanoa Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Verner Center for Early Learning, according to his obituary.

In addition to his wife, Keever, Aycock is survived by his two daughters, Janelle Lucksavage and her husband, Phil, of Murphy; and Glenna Aycock of South Lake Tahoe, California; five grandchildren; twin brother Frank B. Aycock III, and his wife De of Charlotte; and his sister and her husband Sidney Buchanan of Houston, Texas. He is also mourned by his wife’s daughters, son-in-law and five grandchildren in Wilmington and San Francisco.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Aycock's family asks that donations be made to the Verner Center for Early Learning, an organization founded by two of Aycock's close friends.