BY BILL BERGER
On of the first contacts I had with the Texas Press Association was a year or two after I purchased the Hondo Anvil Herald in 1946. I was fresh out of the Army, and this was my first venture as an owner. There was a meeting in Dallas, specially called as I remember, and Paul Fulks, publisher of the Wolfe City newspaper, was president of TPA. The purpose of the meeting was to employ a full time manager and expand the TPA operations.
At that time we had a part-time operation, although it was well done, with Deskins Wells, publisher at Wellington, running the magazine, handling correspondence and accepting what few ad orders we had at the time.
Oklahoma had a more active association with a full-time staff, and we learned that Vern Sanford, who at the time worked for Oklahoma, was available. He was employed, moved to Dallas, and an office was established in a Baker Hotel room. Sanford was energetic and capable, and membership increased. Conventions were emphasized and the weekly bulletin became routine. Sales efforts were increased, especially during political campaigns.
The association earned money, and since it was supposed to be a non-profit organization, it became necessary to organize a regular corporation which we called Texas Press Service. This paid for rental space and many of the other expenses and each year wound up with little profit while allowing TPA to operate with some of the mutual expense paid. There were separate officers, and they were properly kept apart to comply with the law.
Both companies grew under Sanford's management, and both were headquartered in a remodeled house which the Sanford family purchased and rented to the association. This continued for several years, and during the administration of the late George Baker, president in 1962-63, we began to discuss the possibility of buying an office for the expanding business. Employees were practically sitting on each other's lap, with the growing activity. I was vice-president under Baker, and he appointed the late Walter Buckner of San Marcos and me as a committee to look for locations. We found several, with real estate in those days selling at tiny fractions of what Austin buildings now bring. One I recall was a three story brick mansion about two blocks from the Governor's Mansion, which we optioned at $40,000. We wanted to take this offer, and when it was before the board it failed to pass, so we continued to rent the Sanford property. The location committee continued, with the late Rigby Owen as chairman, and he found the present building, which then was a soft drink bottling works. It was purchased, and has been an excellent location.
I remember that the summer convention in 1964 when I was president was held at the Shamrock Hilton in Houston. The board meeting was lengthy and did not end until about 2 a.m. due to discussion about the proposed location change and other matters.
W.E. "Bill" Berger, 86th president, was born June 6, 1918 in Ferris, Ill. He attended Carthage College in Illinois and studied English, and while there was an ad and subscription salesman and proofreader for the Hancock County (Ill.) Journal.
His newspaper career began as a country correspondent. He carried a paper route for the Burlington (Iowa) Hawkeye Gazette. He was circulation manager for the Topeka (Kan.) State Journal, Iola (Kan.) Register and in Yankton, S.D. and Rolla, Mo. He also worked at newspapers in Spencer, Iowa and Rushville and Tuscola, both in Illinois.
In 1946 he purchased the Hondo Anvil Herald and has published it ever since, with his son Jeff now serving as co-publisher. At one time he also held interests in the Zavala County Sentinel and Seguin Enterprise. In 1951 he bought the LaCoste Ledger and merged it with the Anvil Herald.
He was president of South Texas Press Association from 1954-55 and was president of Texas Press Association from 1963-1964. He received Texas Press Association's Golden 50 Award in 1987.