Jim Bardwell, publisher of the Gladewater Mirror, Lindale News & Times and the White Oak Independent, was elected president of the Texas Press Association at a special virtual TPA board meeting held Jan. 21. The virtual meeting was held instead of the usual in-person convention meeting due to COVID-19 pandemic health concerns.
Bardwell succeeds Ramona Ferguson, publisher of The Banner Press, who became chairman of the board. Other new officers include Leonard Woolsey, publisher of The Galveston Daily News, as first vice president; Ken Cooke, publisher of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, as second vice president; and Lisa Chappell, publisher of the Greenville Herald-Banner, as treasurer.
Bardwell began his newspaper career as the co-editor of the Daily Planet newsletter in the fifth grade at William L. Cabell Elementary School in Farmer’s Branch, which was hand-written and distributed for 1 cent per copy. Labor issues caused the Daily Planet to be short-lived, but it set the course for a long career in the news business.
At Longview High School Bardwell was a member of the school newspaper staff. He then went on to work on The Flare newspaper at Kilgore College, as well as an underground newspaper in Kilgore. Later he worked on East Texas State University’s student newspaper the East Texan and ETSU’s magazine after he and his bride Suzanne moved to Commerce.
While at ETSU, he began working at the Commerce Journal, a Harte-Hanks community newspaper, and was promoted to sports editor after six months. A year later he was asked to join the Sulphur Springs News-Telegram as the sports editor.
That led to a position on the sports staff at the Longview Daily News and Longview Morning Journal – now the Longview News-Journal.
After several years on the sports staff, Bardwell was asked to move to the news side as East Texas editor after helping break several news stories. While at the Longview Morning Journal, Bardwell was recognized by the Associated Press for breaking numerous national stories — including the New Year’s Eve fatal airplane crash of teen idol and singer Ricky Nelson in Northeast Texas, exposing the National Weather Service’s flawed billion-dollar nationwide NEXRAD radar system which resulted in a Congressional investigation and a revamp of the entire program and the early retirement of NWS top officials. Bardwell also covered the kidnapping and murder of three East Texas teens by parolee Jerry “the Animal” McFadden and his violent escape from county jail and subsequent recapture following a three-day manhunt, the biggest manhunt in Texas history at that time.
Bardwell was awarded the Dallas Press Club’s highest award, The Katie, for leading a multi-part investigative feature that exposed social and monetary deficiencies between Longview’s white residents living on the north side of the city and minorities living on the south side. The feature led to city officials addressing the exposed racial inequities.
After 10 years at Longview, Bardwell and his wife Suzanne began East Texas Sports Magazine, a 12-county weekly sports magazine. That led to Westward Communications offering him the publisher’s job at the Gladewater Mirror and Big Sandy & Hawkins Journal, as well as managing the Westward East Texas regional printing plant. Over the next 20 years, Bardwell was named publisher of several other Westward community newspapers in Lindale, Overton, Grand Saline and Edgewood.
When Westward Communications purchased the Longview News-Journal and Marshall News-Messenger, Bardwell returned to the daily newspaper as city editor. And when Westward Communications sold its dailies and weeklies, Bardwell and Suzanne joined with two other newspapermen and purchased the East Texas weeklies. That purchase led to the creation of Bardwellink, LLC in 2012, the parent company of the Gladewater Mirror, Lindale News & Times and the White Oak Independent.
The Bardwells have won many TPA and NETPA First Place awards for news writing, column writing, photography, advertising, editorial writing and community service over the years and received the TPA Sweepstakes plaque in 2009 for the Gladewater Mirror.
Bardwell currently serves as president of the Gladewater Economic Development Corporation, treasurer of the Gladewater Chamber of Commerce and as a director on the Gladewater Round-Up Rodeo Association, where he was named director of the year in 2019. Additionally, he serves on the North and East Texas Press Association (NETPA) board of directors and has served on the boards of the Gladewater Main Street Board and the Gladewater Antique District Association.
Bardwell serves on the Gladewater Police Advisory Board and served as president of the Gregg County Crime Stoppers Board and the Upshur County Child Welfare Board. He also served on the humane society boards in Gregg County and Hunt County and served as a city councilman on the East Mountain City Council. The Bardwells are very active in Gladewater’s food bank, Manna House. Bardwell works also with the Gladewater Recycling effort and helps build handicap ramps with the Gladewater Rotary Club.
The NETPA honored Bardwell with its highest awards, the Sam Holloway award in 2000 and the Tom Mooney Friend of Newspapers award in 2004. Bardwell was elected president of the NETPA twice – in 1998 and again in 2007. He has also served as NETPA finance chairman. He has served on the board of directors of the Texas Press Association for more than 20 years and has served as an appointed director and as an elected director of TPA. He and Suzanne are active on TPA’s Legislative Advisory Committee.
The Bardwells have one son, Josh, who serves as the Texas A&M Forest Service Regional Fire Coordinator in East Texas and is married to Jennifer Bardwell, a nurse practitioner Hospitalist in Longview.
The Bardwells are members of the Longview First Christian Church.