AUSTIN — Texas Newspaper Foundation announces the selection of three exemplary individuals — John William “Bill” Cooke, Donnis Baggett and Barney Hubbs — into the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame for the year 2019.
The induction ceremony will take place during the Texas Press Association 2019 Convention and Trade Show at Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center on Jan. 25.
A selection committee met and chose the inductees on Nov 9. Austin-based Texas Newspaper Foundation created the hall of fame in 2006 to induct up to four individuals annually. Inductees have been credited with outstanding achievements and contributions to the newspaper industry and to their communities. The first four, Roy Eaton, Alfred H. Belo, James Roberts and Staley McBrayer, were inducted into the hall of fame in January 2007.
JOHN WILLIAM ‘BILL’ COOKE
Bill Cooke grew up in the print shop of his family newspaper, The Rockdale Reporter. His father, W.H. Cooke, was the son of John Esten Cooke, who bought the newspaper in 1911 and ran it until he was named postmaster in 1936. W.H. Cooke stepped into the publisher’s post and held it until his death in 1991.
When Bill Cooke was in high school, his father broke the story that the Aluminum Company of America, Alcoa, planned to build a smelter near Rockdale that would employ 1,500 workers and double the city’s population.
After a year at Southwestern University, Cooke transferred to then-North Texas State College in Denton, now the University of North Texas, to major in journalism.
He compiled a “string book” as a sophomore, was elevated to sports editor as a junior, joined the college news service as a senior, and wrote hometown news releases and worked with the sports information director. Cooke received the Outstanding Senior Journalism Student Award in 1958.
Cooke married Peggy Sue Adams on Dec. 21, 1957. Out of their 61-year union came four children: Kathy Lu Cooke Martin, who died in 2017 and was publisher of The Reporter; Kyle Cooke, who works for Castle Biosciences in Clear Lake; Ken Esten Cooke, publisher of the Fredericksburg Standard and Radio Post and now co-publisher of The Rockdale Reporter with wife Christine; and Kevin Adams Cooke, an importer of arts and crafts from Mexico, who died in 2008.
Cooke credits his wife, Peggy, with being “the world’s greatest proofreader” during his more than six decades as a newspaper editor and publisher.
Cooke’s career with The Reporter, not counting his work during high school and summers while he was enrolled in college, began Jan. 1, 1959, as news editor. While responsible for general news and sports, Cooke redesigned the newspaper and departmentalized the operation, emphasizing hard news and human-interest features, complemented by coverage of school news, sports and lots of local names. This concentration on highlighting the lives and activities of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and especially children — in athletics, organizations, band and Future Farmers of America — doubled the newspaper’s average page count.
In 1973, Cooke converted The Reporter “from the hot, inky letterpress production era” to offset printing, a change that resulted in sharper photos, improved page design and more attractive advertising. The Reporter drew the accolades of its peers in contests, winning many awards in news writing, editorials, column writing, headline writing, page design and sports coverage in South Texas Press Association and Texas Press Association newspaper contests.
In serving his community, Cooke has been a lifelong member of St. John’s United Methodist Church. He and his wife founded the Rockdale Tennis Association. He was elected president of the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce at age 28, served on three industrial foundations and was a member of the Rockdale Rotary Club. He has been the unofficial publicity chair for too many organizations to list. It all goes with the territory, Cooke says. “Small towns run on volunteerism and public recognition in the newspaper is the only thing those jobs pay,” he said.
In his role as executive vice president of the Texas Press Association, Donnis Baggett leads the organization’s governmental affairs program and serves as a state and national newspaper industry liaison.
His work, which draws on his experience in more than four decades in the newspaper industry, focuses on protecting open meetings, open records and public notice at all levels of government.
Baggett, born in Livingston in 1952, graduated in 1973 from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches with a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism and a minor in political science. While at SFA, he served as editor of the Pine Log, the university’s student newspaper. He also served on a committee that rewrote the student government constitution – his first involvement in politics.
He went on to work at newspapers in Livingston and Longview before The Dallas Morning News hired him in 1976. He worked as a reporter, assistant city editor and assistant state editor before being named state editor in 1982. He later was promoted to assistant managing editor and was assigned responsibility for The News’ Sunday edition. While he served in that position The News reached its all-time high in Sunday circulation.
From 1992 to 1994, he served two terms as president of the Press Club of Dallas.
After A.H. Belo Corp., owner of The Dallas Morning News, purchased The Bryan-College Station Eagle in late 1995, Baggett was named publisher and editor of The Eagle. In 2010 he was hired as publisher of the Waco Tribune-Herald, and in 2012 he joined the staff of the Texas Press Association.
While in Bryan-College Station, Baggett served on boards of numerous community organizations and carved out time to serve as chair of the combined Legislative Advisory Committee of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association and Texas Press Association. He served TDNA as a board member, then as president.
Baggett also served on the board of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. He received the organization’s coveted James Madison Award in 2014 for his ongoing efforts to promote and preserve the open government laws of Texas. He also was awarded the prestigious Frank W. Mayborn Award for Community Leadership and the Longhorn Award for Industry Leadership, both given by the Texas Daily Newspaper Association.
Outside his newspaper career, Baggett and his wife, Beverly Brown, own a bison ranch near Bryan-College Station. He is currently vice president of the National Bison Association and is a past president of the Texas Bison Association.
He also serves as vice chair of the board of trustees of First United Methodist Church of Bryan, as a board member of the Aggieland Humane Society and as an advisory board member of the Washington on the Brazos State Park Association.
Born in 1897 on a ranch about 40 miles north of San Angelo, Barney Hubbs moved with his family about 160 miles southwest, to Pecos, in 1907.
Hubbs, at age 61, recounted in a story written by Bill Lee in the June 21, 1959, edition of the Odessa American: “I drove a wagon and it took nearly 16 days to make the trip from Sterling County to Pecos due to blizzards and a horse runaway.” When the family arrived in Pecos, they stayed in the town’s wagon yard until Hubbs’ father acquired homestead acreage in the county.
Hubbs found employment in Pecos when he was about 13 years old in 1910, working before and after school as a printer’s devil in the backshop of the Reeves County Record, a newspaper owned by Billy Leeman and John Hibdon. By 1916, Hubbs was working on a ranch near Dalhart. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1917 and spent part of World War I building fuel storage tanks for a naval air station at Pauillac, France. While there, Hubbs helped publish a newspaper, the Pauillac Pilot, for Allied soldiers and sailors. “We printed 10,000 copies each issue and sold them for 10 cents each. All the proceeds went to aid 300 Belgian orphans living in a camp outside of Pauillac,” Hubbs told Pecos Enterprise reporter John Pitts in a 1975 interview published in the newspaper’s Veterans Day edition.
After the war he returned to West Texas in 1920. Jobs were scarce. That year, he took out a small bank loan and started the Hubbs and Moran printing company with a partner, Pat Moran. In 1921 the two founded The Pecos Gusher, a newspaper to compete with the Pecos Enterprise. Hubbs bought out Moran’s interest in 1923.
Hubbs purchased the Enterprise in 1925 and merged it with the Gusher. In 1926, at the request of the mayor of Odessa, Hubbs founded the Ector County News — a forerunner of the Odessa American — and reportedly sold and bought back the newspaper several times before finally selling in 1936. It was one of many transactions between Hubbs and other investors looking for stability in the newspaper business.
Hubbs also founded or at one time published many newspapers in the 1940s and ’50s. Those included the Crane County News, the Pyote Signal which later was moved to Monahans, the Mentone Monitor in Loving County, the Wink Broadcaster, the Artesia (New Mexico) Advocate, the Madera Valley News in Toyah, the Winkler County News and the Fort Stockton Pioneer. He eventually sold all of his newspapers. The Pecos Enterprise was the last newspaper Hubbs owned. He sold the publication 1960, due to health problems, but retained ownership of the newspaper’s commercial print shop, the Pecos Printing Company.
In 1935, Hubbs entered the radio business when he and Jack Hawkins of El Paso started Radio Station KIUN in Pecos. It was the first of a string of radio stations owned by Hubbs and Hawkins that included Cortez, Colorado; Carlsbad, New Mexico; and stations in Alpine, McCamey, Monahans and Odessa.
In April 1961, Hubbs was approached by local business tycoon Billie Sol Estes, who offered to buy the company so he could print business forms needed for his expanding enterprises. An Aug. 13, 1967, Odessa American story by Bob Horn tells that Hubbs and Estes “made the deal.” But a feud between the established newspaper and Estes escalated. Estes started his own newspaper, the Pecos Daily News.
The Independent published investigative reporting by 29-year-old editor Oscar Griffin Jr. about Estes’ dealings, which led to the federal indictment, trial and conviction of Estes in a false-assets scheme to defraud banks and investors, and a 1963 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished local reporting.
Hubbs married Luella Hart at Toyah on July 2, 1924. Barney Hubbs died in 1993 at age 95 and Luella Hubbs died in 1979 at age 73. Two infant sons preceded them in death. Their son, Billy Hart Hubbs, died in 2006.