Obituaries published in the September 2021 edition of the Texas Press Messenger
AUSTIN – Arnold García, known by his Austin American-Statesman colleagues as an old-school newspaper man and a trailblazer for Hispanic journalists during his 38 years with the newspaper, died Aug. 11. He was 73.
Garcia was born and grew up in San Angelo, where he started his newspaper career while still a student at Angelo State University. He was a police reporter for the San Angelo Standard-Times. According to former Statesman editor Rich Oppel, it wasn't uncommon for García to be the target of slurs in the early years of his career. Friends said his response was to recognize and learn to fight discrimination.
García served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971, leaving as a sergeant. In 1980, he joined the National Guard and served as a captain.
García was only 26 when the Statesman hired him as a courthouse reporter. He spent the next 38 years of his career reporting and writing for the Statesman, including 22 years as the editorial page editor. When he retired in 2013, he was the longest-serving editorial page editor in Texas and one of only a handful of Hispanic editorial page editors in the country, according to the Statesman.
He covered state agencies and schools and moved through the ranks at the paper, eventually running the metro desk, overseeing political coverage, before becoming a political columnist. He became the editorial page editor in 1991.
García and his staff pushed elected officials on affordability in Central Texas, urging them to be more accountable to not only their agencies, but taxpayers and renters who pay for the operation of those agencies. He introduced a weekly "Two Views" column on local issues, allowing more people to bring their ideas to the editorial pages.
He made sure the Statesman's coverage of the city reflected the diversity of the community. He was integral to the creation of the Statesman's now defunct Spanish-language paper, Ahora Sí.
Many of García's colleagues remember him as a mentor and an honest critic.
Garcia died of pancreatic cancer, which he was diagnosed with in May. He is survived by two children, a sister and his mother.
HEREFORD – Lavon Nieman, 88, of Lubbock, died July 31.
A native of Swenson, Texas, she married O. G. “Speedy” Nieman of Lamesa in 1951. For seven years, she was the lifestyle editor and bookkeeper for the Slaton Slatonite newspaper, where her husband was publisher. They moved to Hereford in 1972, when Speedy Nieman joined James Roberts as a partner and president of the Hereford Brand and served as president of North Plains Printing Company.
She was active in community work throughout her life, serving two terms as president of the Women's Chamber of Commerce, which named her Woman of the Year in 1975, and on several committees in the First Baptist Church.
She and her husband were also active in the West Texas Press Association, the Panhandle Press Association and Texas Press Association. Speedy Nieman served as president of all three groups, in 1969-70, 1975-76 and 1981-82.
She was preceded in death by her husband, who died in 1999.
She is survived by two sons, four grandchildren, two great grandchildren and other relatives.
Services were held Aug. 4 at Mendez & Mullins Family Funeral Home in Hereford, with burial in West Park Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to Hereford Senior Citizens Center, 426 Ranger St., Hereford, Texas 79045 or Carillon Foundation, 1717 Norfolk Avenue, Lubbock, Texas 79416.
EASTLAND – Eastland County Today Co-Publisher GayNell O’Brien died Aug. 16. She was 83.
A native of Rotan, she married H.V. O’Brien in Abilene in 1960. She worked for Southwestern Bell and H.V. was a staff writer and later military editor of the Abilene Reporter News while they both attended Hardin-Simmons.
In 1962, the O'Briens were invited by the late Cisco Press owner J.W. Sitton to move to Eastland and manage the Eastland Telegram. When they moved to Eastland County they purchased a historic home and joined First Baptist Church.
In 1968, they bought the newspaper and eventually all five newspapers in the county. They installed a modern printing plant and moved newspaper operations into a new building which Mrs. O'Brien designed. In later years, they developed the Eastland County Today newspaper that now serves the area.
Mrs. O'Brien died of respiratory failure (non-COVID) at Hendrick Hospital in Abilene, where she had been airlifted through the efforts of the Eastland Volunteer Fire Department and Eastland EMT, whose members were named honorary pallbearers.
In addition to her husband of 61 years, she is survived by her daughter Amy, who is Eastland County Extension agent and serves as general manager of the newspaper, and son Vance, who served faithfully as caregiver to his mother in her later years. Other survivors include five grandchildren and other relatives.
Funeral services were held Aug. 23 at First Baptist Church of Eastland, with burial in the family plot at Pleasant Hill Cemetery. Officiating were Pastor Kevin Burrow, First Baptist Church of Eastland; Eastland Police Chief/Pastor David Hullum of First Christian Church of Eastland, and Pastor Jerry Maston of River of Life Church of Eastland.
Kimbrough Funeral Home in Cisco was in charge of the arrangements. Memorials may be made to Eastland Memorial Hospital Emergency Services.
Lewis Carlisle Spearman
CROSBY – Longtime Star-Courier Associate Editor and Marketing Director Lewis Carlisle Spearman, 66, of Crosby died June 25.
A native of Anderson, South Carolina, he was a graduate of Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, where he studied journalism. He also studied behavioral science at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He worked for the Anderson Independent newspaper before moving to Texas.
Spearman started at the Star-Courier in Crosby in 1964. He was active with the Crosby/Hoffman Chamber, the Highlands Chamber and the Crosby Fair and Rodeo. A history buff, he also participated in the battle re-enactments every year on the San Jacinto Battleground.
In addition to his skills in journalism and printing, he had a warm personality that made good friends easily. In his writing, he was noted for his quirky style and use of flowery vocabulary.
He is survived by a brother, sister and other relatives.
A memorial service was held July 6 at Crosby Church, where his ashes were interred. In addition, the community responded to the loss with several other memorial services and fund raisers on his behalf.
CAMPBELLSVILLE, KY – Max Heath, a longtime Kansas newspaper industry leader best known to newspapers across the country as the Postal Service expert for the National Newspaper Association, died July 28. He was 75.
A native of Campbellsville, Heath worked his way through college at Campbellsville University, graduating in 1969. The university named him a Distinguished Alumnus in 1987.
He was sports editor and news editor of the Central Kentucky News. In 1968, Kentucky Press Association
recognized his efforts with the award for Best Sports Page. Prior to that, he was a sportswriter for The News-Journal in high school.
From 1969-71, he served in the Army as an information specialist in Alabama and Thailand, where he was editor of the newspaper for U.S. Army Support-Thailand.
Heath also worked more than 10 years as a journalist in his hometown of Campbellsville. He was managing editor of the semiweekly Central Kentucky News-Journal in 1974-75, and editor & general manager of The News-Journal for part of 1969 and from 1971-74.
He was general manager of News Publishing Company, Tell City, Indiana, and editor of The Perry County News from 1975-80. In 1978 The News was awarded "Blue Ribbon Weekly" for best non-daily in Indiana by the Hoosier State Press Association.
He retired in 2008 as vice president, postal/acquisitions, of Landmark Community Newspapers, Shelbyville, Kentucky, where he had resided since 1980.
For 22 years he was executive editor responsible for recruiting, training and news quality improvement for 54 paid weekly and daily newspapers in 13 states with over 300,000 paid circulation. For 23 years he was circulation director as well, helping grow paid circulation and training circulation managers.
Heath was a self-styled “country editor” who edited and managed non-daily newspapers in Kentucky and Indiana and served as regional manager for numerous LCNI properties.
He served 35 years as chair of the Postal Committee of the National Newspaper Association and wrote a monthly Postal Tips column for Publisher's Auxiliary. He represented NNA on the Postal Service Mailer's Technical Advisory Committee from 1989 to 2017. He conducted seminars on postal savings and delivery for newspaper associations and groups for 25 years.
He received the NNA President's Award in 1989 and 1997, Ambassador Award in 1992, and Amos Award for service to community newspapers in 1994.
Among his many awards were the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Edwards M. Templin award from Kentucky Press Association, KPA Most Valuable member, distinguished service awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and the Ohio News Media Association and the Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism through the Institute for Rural Journalism and the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in Lexington. He was also a Kentucky Colonel.
He is survived by his wife, the former Ruth Ann Sullivan, also of Campbellsville, a son and other relatives.
Expressions of sympathy and memorials may be sent to the NNA Foundation, PO Box 13323, Pensacola FL 32591.