2006 Golden 50 Recipients
Awarded June 23, 3006, at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott
Mary Helen Gentry’s father Chester Alexander Nowlin worked for several local weekly papers in the Ellis/Navarro/Kaufman County area, and her family moved from Rice to Ennis when she was a month old. He worked at the Ennis Daily News, which at that time also published the Palmer Rustler and Ennis Weekly Local, then bought controlling interest of the newspaper in 1939. He was editor and publisher until he had a stroke.
Mary Helen Gentry’s brother Weldon Nowlin was discharged from the Army and returned to run the paper. Eventually, her husband Charles Gentry came to work for the print shop, and was made the manager in 1951 when Weldon Nowlin died. Mary Helen’s mother, Helen Nowlin, remained publisher of the Ennis Daily News until she died and Charles Gentry was made publisher.
Mary Helen Gentry grew up in the newspaper business and started working at the Ennis Daily News in 1945. As a high school junior she started proofreading for the family’s newspaper.
“The wire service came in from Dallas on a Continental bus, and I would go and pick it up at the bus station every day,” she said.
Plans to go to college were put on hold when the society editor got married and Mary Helen needed to stay at the paper and help.
Over the years, she did everything from classified ads and proofing to bookkeeping and advertising accounts. She managed circulation, and eventually became society editor, and on occasion managed the Upco print shop.
“The Ennis Daily News will always be the first love of my heart,” she said.
The paper remained in the Gentry family until it was sold to Ellis County Newspapers Inc. in 1996.
Mary Helen Gentry has continued to write her column “On The Avenue” over the years. The column was a feature of the Ennis Daily News even before Mary Helen was its author. For a time, it was written by her mother and still appears under Mary Helen’s by-line in the Ennis Daily News each week.
“The column ‘On the Avenue’ was there before my Mama wrote it, it has gone on with the paper,” she said.
Mary Helen Gentry also continues to write a cooking column for the Ennis Daily News.
She and her husband Charles are still very active members of the Ennis community, volunteering their time to various civic organizations. They frequent the offices of the Ennis Daily News several times a week.
Mary Mae McDonald Hartley entered the University of Texas immediately after high school graduation in the summer of 1944 and majored in journalism. She worked on The Daily Texan for three years covering women’s sports, and had a by-line story virtually every single day she worked there.
Despite her heavy reporting duties, Hartley earned high grades in all subjects, was honored with the prestigious “Goodfellow” award for all-around excellence at UT, was president of her sorority Delta Zeta for two years and was a Bluebonnet Belle nominee for campus beauty.
Her first job out of college in 1948 was as a reporter on the weekly Colorado County Citizen in Columbus for editor/publisher Truman McMahan, with whom she maintained a life-long friendship until his death in the late 1990s.
Within a year, Texas Press Association general manager Vernon T. Sanford called on Hartley to work at TPA, editing the Texas Press Messenger monthly trade publication — thus began a 30+ year association with TPA.
Hartley went to work for the Austin American-Statesman for several years after her first TPA stint, and took an interim short-term summer job at the Amarillo Times, a daily tabloid, during her Statesman years.
TPA called her back to Austin, and from the late 1950s until the mid-1980s, TPA was never without Hartley as editor of the Messenger and often in other capacities: she served as assistant to the executive director of TPA under the various tenures of Sanford, William G. Boykin and Lyndell Williams.
Whether she was working full-time or part-time for TPA, Hartley also was a public relations freelancer, handling such accounts as the American Heart Association, the Korean Children’s Choir Texas Tour, the American Red Cross and the Junior League’s Settlement Home in the time before non-profit entities made a PR director part of their regular payroll.
Often Hartley and her husband, commercial artist and American-Statesman staff artist Harry Hartley, would team up — she writing the copy and he creating the graphics for many print media projects.
Both often freelanced, being members of the notoriously low-pay journalism trade, to help take care of their three daughters. Harry Hartley drew many a Texas Press Messenger cover back in the days when it was a slick, magazine-style monthly publication.
Hartley also was a regular contributor to the Austin Chamber of Commerce monthly magazine, and edited several trade publications such as the Texas Association of Dry Cleaners monthly and many others.
Besides editing and writing almost all of the copy for the Messenger, one of her main tasks at TPA was planning, organizing and coordinating every facet of the June and midwinter conventions.
The Golden 50 Award was conceived and first awarded in 1963 while Hartley was at TPA during her most heavily involved years, as well as the building and growth years of TPA itself.
She helped organize TPA’s former Texan of the Year award for such Texas greats at Hoss Cartwright, Miss America Phyllis George, pianist Van Cliburn and many other luminaries.
Hartley’s daughter Donna Hartley Lucas well remembers the day she and her sisters sat on Dale Rogers’ and Roy Rogers’ laps while her mother interviewed the beloved couple for the Messenger. Dale gave her baby sister Harriet her 2 p.m. bottle that day.
Hartley once had an appointment to photograph Gov. Allan Shivers, and she brought all three daughters along because they were on spring break. But unknown to her mother Donna Hartley had stowed her new Pomeranian puppy in a handbag and just before the photo was snapped the dog got loose and threw up on the governor’s mansion carpet.
Hartley was always a reporter, and in 1966 when Charles Whitman went on his deadly shooting spree atop the UT Tower she ran outside the TPA offices on San Antonio Street just off the main “drag” of the UT campus within range of the rifle shots to be a living eyewitness to the mayhem while “everyone else got under their desks.”
Hartley left TPA in the early 1980s to write books. Her first book was a children’s storybook, “Mariposa, Magical Stories of Texas,” published by Eakin Press.
She also authored non-fiction works “A Hand on Their Shoulders” about Texas’ Marbridge Youth Ranch, and “Almost to Heaven” about the Lion’s Club camp for children.
She has written about David Ruiz, a prison inmate instrumental in correctional system reform in the 1970s, and Ben Jack Cage, a notorious high-flying embezzler of the 1950s, a highly possible model for the 1980s fictional J.R. Ewing. Cage is Hartley’s first cousin. Hartley traveled to Brazil and Chile pursuing the Cage story.
In the 1990s she was a paid cruise lecturer on writing memoirs for a special writers’ cruise to Australia and New Zealand, surviving a storm at sea near Tasmania that injured numerous ship passengers.
From 1985-99 she taught creative and non-fiction writing and journalism techniques at McLennan Community College, Bosque Conservatory of Fine Arts, and Southwest Texas State University community education department.
She lives in Austin with her dog Emily and cockatiel Cassie, and is still writing and outlining future books.
Betty Humphrey, the Fort Bend Herald’s society editor, has been on the job for nearly 54 years.
She began her stint at what was then The Rosenberg Herald fresh out of high school on Oct. 8, 1952, as Betty Dawes. The night she graduated in the Top 10 percent of her class at Rosenberg High School, she was offered a job by publisher Donald B. Bryant, who had seen — and was impressed with — some of the articles she penned for the Rosenberg Chamber of Commerce and submitted to The Herald and the Houston Chronicle.
At that time, the newspaper was published weekly and, as Bryant’s secretary, Humphrey sat on a wooden drawer to take dictation.
Humphrey has seen a lot of changes in the more than half-century since her career began, and met countless celebrities along the way. Among them are Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard and Pat Nixon, George Bush, George W. Bush, Willie Nelson and George Strait.
But Humphrey says she has never been particularly impressed with celebrity, preferring, instead, to visit with the folks of the community she has served over the past 54 years, helping them observe births, weddings, anniversaries, and making sure their obituaries are correct.
In 1957, four years after she married Guy Humphrey, the late Fred Hartman and his newspaper associates of Southern Newspapers Inc. added the Rosenberg Herald and The Texas Coaster, Richmond’s newspaper, to their stable of community publications, when a partnership was formed with then owners Windel Shannon and his wife, Pat.
Humphrey was part of the new staff when the two newspapers were merged into the semiweekly Herald-Coaster in 1958, and she was there when the publication became a daily newspaper in 1967, about the time she says she and her female coworkers were allowed to wear “trousers” to the workplace.
Bill Hartman and Hartman Newspapers became the owner of The Herald-Coaster (now the Fort Bend Herald) in 1974.
Among her most treasured recognitions was that of 1999 Fort Bend County Fair Honored Volunteer.
She has for many years been a member of several organizations throughout the county, including the Rosenberg Business and Profession Women’s Club, and the Milton Brenner Post 3903 VFW Ladies Auxiliary.
She and her husband have five children: Lynn, Bubba, Kevin, Lisa and the late Bill, who was killed in a car/train collision. All five children worked at The Herald-Coaster at one time or another. The Humphreys also have 10 grandchildren.
“When you’re having fun, time just flies,” she says, adding the newspaper has provided “a wonderful life for me and my family.”
“I thank the Lord for loving what I do and getting to do what I love,” she said.
Mildred Skapple started as a reader for Texas Press Clipping Service in April 1956 and began a 50-year association that earned her the title of clipping bureau manager.
Texas Press Clipping Service was a highly-successful arm of Texas Press Association. Readers scanned all the newspapers in Texas each day for target words provided by clients and then clipped applicable stories for clients all over the state and even outside Texas.
The service was sold to Geotel’s Newz Group in Missouri in April 1999 but Skapple remained on staff and still works in client relations today.
TPA Executive Vice President Lyndell Williams in the 1980 anniversary book called Skapple “a jewel of a commander.”
Skapple is TPA’s longest term employee in years of service, racking up 44 years of service while the bureau was part of TPA.
When she was first employed as a reader in April 1956, the department employed only four people to handle its initial 13 accounts. She was appointed supervisor one year later.
By 1980, the department had grown to 15 employees handling 510 accounts. Among those accounts were state and national office holders and politicians, utility companies, lawyers, large corporations, hotels, chambers of commerce and industrial organizations.
Skapple recalled that the clipping bureau even furnished news and photo clips that were mounted into scrapbooks and presented to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. But one of the most unusual clipping accounts over the years, she once recalled, was from the owner of a thoroughbred stud horse who wanted all the mares in Texas to realize that he had hung up his horseshoes.
During the 1978-79 fiscal year, the bureau processed and mailed a total of 606,651 individual clippings.
Skapple is an Amarillo Sandy, having been reared in that Panhandle city. She and her husband Rodney first came to Austin so that he could study structural engineering. A good family team, Mildred worked to finance Rodney’s education and they raised two sons, Kim and Randy. She still lives in Austin.
Dalton Wood graduated from Jacksboro High School in 1946 and earned a bachelor of arts in journalism in August 1950 at North Texas State University in Denton (later University of North Texas).
His first newspaper job was as a reporter for the weekly Graham Newsfoto in September 1950.
From November 1950 to early 1951 he was a reporter and photographer for the Vernon Record. In 1951 he moved to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal as reporter and photographer, and later that year joined the news desk as rim man (copy editor and headline writer).
Wood soon left Lubbock for the big city in 1952 to become a copy editor and headline writer for the Dallas Times Herald but he returned a year later in 1953 to the Avalanche-Journal as chief editorial writer. He later moved to the copy desk as editor and supervising reporters.
In 1955 Wood moved to Indiana where he purchased the weekly Newburgh Register. He also worked part time as copy editor/headline writer/layout at the daily Evansville Courier and Press.
Just a few years later in 1959 he returned to Texas and purchased weekly newspapers in Sudan, the Beacon-News, and the Amherst Press in a town seven miles away.
Later he established a new weekly paper at Shallowater, the Star, which was published for several years. During the early 1960s he also owned the Four County News at Anton.
In 1965 Wood joined staff of the Plainview Daily Herald as news editor, editing and supervising copy of reporters, choosing stories from Associated Press and United Press wire services, writing headlines and laying out all the newspaper except society and sports pages.
He also taught night and late afternoon classes in journalism and English at Wayland Baptist College, and coached the tennis team there.
But in 1971 the ownership bug bit him again and he purchased an interest in the weekly Slaton Slatonite, and moved to Slaton to publish that newspaper.
In 1979 he purchased the weekly Lynn County News at Tahoka and moved there as publisher. For about five years from 1983-88 he also published weekly newspapers at Sudan and Amherst, having re-acquired those papers.
Wood turned over publishing duties of the Lynn County News to twin daughters, Juanell and Vondell, in 1992, and has been semi-retired since with title of publisher emeritus. He still continues to write police beat and other stories and also a weekly column, called “Woodwork,” which has appeared in the newspapers he has owned since 1971.