Frank Kelsey Baker, Sr.
FORT STOCKTON – Texas Press Association’s 107th president, Frank Kelsey Baker Sr., community leader and the award-winning former publisher of the Fort Stockton Pioneer, died Jan. 26 in Austin. He was 84.
Baker’s election in 1984 was the first time in the association’s history that the son of a past president took the helm. His father, George Baker, had served as president in 1962-1963.
Shortly before his birth in 1934, his parents George and Emily Baker had purchased the Fort Stockton Pioneer. His father was formerly publisher of the Devil’s River News in Sonora. As a child he accompanied his father on reporting junkets and learned photography using a Speed Graphic camera.
As a teenager, the young Baker showed a keen sense of entrepreneurship that would serve him well for the advertising side of the newspaper business. One example is his doughnut route, which at George’s urging evolved into ad sales after Frank had built relationships with his doughnut customers all over town.
A graduate of Fort Stockton High School, where he played football, Baker graduated from the University of Texas with a journalism degree in 1956.
Baker landed his first newspaper job as editor and advertising manager of The Llano News. Five months later, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he and his wife Mary Lea were eventually posted to Germany. They relocated to Fort Stockton in 1958 and he became advertising manager of the Pioneer. When his father was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, he purchased the Pioneer from his parents and became publisher in 1971.
As publisher, he added news and feature writing to his duties, and his weekly column Pipe Lines was popular with readers.
During his 17 years as publisher, the Pioneer and its staff garnered numerous statewide awards. Between 1981 and 1987, the newspaper was a five-time winner of the Sweepstakes Award from the Texas Press Association for best overall semi-weekly in Texas in its circulation group. The Pioneer also won many awards in various categories on both the state and regional levels between 1965 and 1988.
Active in the Fort Stockton community, Baker served as president of the Fort Stockton chapter of Rotary International and received the club’s Harris award. In 1988, he was named Outstanding Citizen of Fort Stockton. An Eagle Scout, he was active in scouting through the Concho Valley Council. Other community leadership roles included president and treasurer of the local United Way, president of the Fort Stockton Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Pecos County Hospital Board of Governors.
Baker’s career and life took a new turn in 1988 with the sale of the Pioneer, which had been continuously owned and managed by the Baker family for 54 years. After finishing coursework in accounting at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, he started a tax and accounting service. At age 50 he fulfilled a lifelong dream and earned his pilot’s license, taking great joy in exploring West Texas from the air with his family.
In 2006, the Bakers moved to Austin to be closer to their grandchildren and enjoy the city they had fallen in love with as UT students many years before. In Austin, Baker continued his tax business and served Fort Stockton clients for several years. The Bakers relished their years in Austin and, in addition to their church involvement, enjoyed participating in UT’s LAMP program for senior alumnae.
Inn addition to his wife of 63 years, Mary Lea, Baker is survived by three children, three grandchildren and other relatives.
Celebration of life services were held Feb. 9 in Fort Stockton. Memorials may go to First Presbyterian Church of Fort Stockton, Grace Covenant Church of Austin or Westminster Presbyterian Church of Austin.