Alfred Harrell, editor and publisher of The Bakersfield Californian for nearly 50 years, helped provide wise direction to development of the entire Southern San Joaquin Valley. Harrell, a native Californian, was born Nov. 10, 1863, in Merced County. In a day when the educated men were few, he, as a youth, received an exceptionally good education in the Oakland city schools and acquired a love of learning he kept during his lifetime. He trained for and became a schoolteacher, and he journeyed to Kern County in 1882 to teach. He was 19 years old and was elected school superintendent at the age of 23.
When Harrell was 34, he bought The Daily Californian for $1,000 and rechristened the paper The Bakersfield Californian. Early on, he worked as editor, sometimes reporter, advertising salesman and bookkeeper. Subsequently, he built a completely new plant with the then latest press and equipment installed.
Through his editorials and politics, he backed development of the Kern County highway system. He made possible the much later agricultural and industrial development of the Mojave Desert and defense centers at Edwards Air Force Base and the Naval Ordnance Test Station at Inyokern. He helped establish banking services, and his own interest in mining did much for that industry.
Up until his death on Dec. 14, 1946, at the age of 83, he continued to write many of his own editorials. The institution he headed and left as a legacy as a fine newspaper has followed the same basic principles he set forth of public service, editorial balance and leadership.
He rests today in a magnificent private mausoleum at Historic Union Cemetery.