Golden 50 Award

Golden 50 — 1989

1989 Recipients

110th Summer Convention, June 23, 1989, Sheraton Centre Park Hotel Arlington

Harlan Bridwell, Bridgeport Index
William K. Todd, Todd Publications Inc.

Harlan Bridwell

Harlan Bridwell first experienced the fatal attraction of the newspaper business at the age of nine, in a communist colony in Louisiana.

Harlan's father was plant superintendent of the colony's newspaper and print shop and Harlan was put to work there doing odd jobs and learning the art of bandsetting type.

The Bridwell family lived in the experimental colony for a little less than a year in the 1920s, long enough for Harlan to feel the flow of ink in his veins, and for the family to learn the socialist philosophy did not coincide with the principles of free thought and personal responsibility they cherished.

Later in his adolescent years, Harlan worked on his uncle's newspaper, the Dumas (Ark.) Clarion.

In 1938, Harlan started his own newspaper at Forestburg, Texas, population 75. The Forestburger (named by a local woman after Harlan asked residents to suggest a name), chronicled the births and deaths, business and social activities of the area.

The press and three cases of used type used to produce the paper were bought on credit for $30. The first issue of The Forestburger contained $3.17 worth of advertising.

The 10x14 inch newsprint had to be handfolded before it could be printed on the 7x10 inch foot pedal press, and printed one page at a time. It was then folded back the other way to print the other two pages.

Harlan, 20-year-son of L.H. and Elizabeth Bridwell, did all the work getting out the newspaper, from handsetting the type, which later had to be replaced in the typecases one letter at a time, to selling the ads.

Virtually all the advertising came from merchants in Bowie, Gainesville, Muenster and Saint Jo. Harlan was without a car much of the time and hitchhiked rides from obliging neighbors to area towns. When he hitched a ride on the milk truck going to Muenster, he always helped unload the cans so he wouldn't feel like he was bumming the ride.

Bridwell enlisted in the army in 1940. During the years of World War II, the Forestburger was published by his sister, Dorothy, and, for a time by his brother, Dario. After Dario left for army duty in 1942, Dorothy, with help from her parents, assumed the responsibility of the paper until Harlan's release from military duty at the end of the war.

Shortly after his return, Harlan, who had by this time acquired a wife and baby, bought an 11x17 platen press and enlarged the size of the newspaper page. Later, he started publishing the paper weekly rather than every two weeks. He moved his family into the back of the shop for wife Rosemary's convenience in alternating care of infant son, Keith, with her new job as typesetter.

Next, Harlan introduced a new front page feature he called Shootin' Blind, a column he has continued to write in newspapers he has published over the years.

The Forestburger ceased publication in 1952, when Bridwell moved to Bellevue, in Clay County, to establish the Bellevue News.

Bridwell's six years in Bellevue were active and fruitful ones. He was elected mayor in 1954 and was serving his second term when he resigned in 1957 after purchasing the Bridgeport Index. He served two terms as Master of Bellevue's Masonic Lodge.

When Bridwell, now the father of four children and feeling the need to seek wider fields that might prove more profitable, decided to buy the Index, Bridgeport was getting ready to enter a period of long-awaited prosperity.

The severe drought of the 1950s had depleted the area resources. Wells in a newly discovered gas field had been capped, awaiting Federal Power Commission approval for Natural Gas Pipeline Company to construct a pipeline from Bridgeport to Fritch in West Texas.

In March 1956, Mayor George Harwood led a delegation of Bridgeport businessmen to Washington to appear before the FPC, stating the importance of opening the gas field to Bridgeport's economy. On December 4, 1956, the commission granted approval. Boom times were ahead for Bridgeport.

At the Index, however, the Depression still reigned and four-page papers were the norm. Advertising, at 30 cents a column inch, was regarded by most merchants as a luxury benefiting nobody but the owner of the newspaper. Bridwell's campaign to enlighten the business community on the advantages of advertising was to be a long and arduous one.

Over the years, the tab size paper gained support in the community, and Shootin' Blind had maintained a high readership rating.

In 1960, Bridwell converted from hot-type to the offset method of printing, the first newspaper owner in a wide area of North Texas to do so.

These were exciting times for Bridgeport, when drilling crews poured into the Minute Coffee Shop at all hours of the night, primed for coffee and a hot meal, garnished with plenty of exuberant horseplay. Money flowed along with the gas and oil in what was believed to be a never ending abundance.

The Index published several Progress editions (one a hefty 96 pages) during these prosperous years, with most features, pictures and ads focused on oil related businesses and the rock crushing industry, a large contributor to the Bridgeport area's economy. Downtown retail businesses got their share of publicity, as did the hospital, schools, churches, etc.

As spokesman for his newspaper, Harlan has always met issues head-on, speaking the truth as he saw it even when he knew his position was at odds with popular opinion. His outspoken editorials gained him the reputation of "the fighting editor," a political conservative, and some other labels that, he says, wouldn't do to print.

As recently as last year, one of hid detractors told him, "You've been holding this town back for the last 20 years."

"That's not right, "Harlan replied. "It's been 30 years."

The Bridwell humor that Harlan will probably be most remembered for has more than once had untoward repercussions. In a Shootin' Blind column 15 to 20 years ago, he described a giant jackrabbit he claimed to have seen leaping over oak trees two stories tall. The animal had rampaged through the country and had been guilty of slaughtering 15 calves belonging to a farmer near Paradise, among other outrages. The incidents were described in terms so blatantly unbelievable, Harlan was stunned to find that many people took the story for the truth. Even the Index employee who set the type for the story and was in on the joke from the start, grew quite nervous and upset that such a creature was abroad.

All of the Bridwell's children-Keith, Doug, Stan and Melanie-have worked on weekly newspapers and both

Keith and Doug are former Index editors. Keith, the oldest son, is editor and publisher of the Frisco Enterprise where Stan works in the printing department.

In addition to the three newspapers he now publishes the Index, the Chico Texan and the Wise County Shopper. Harlan has owned the Tioga Herald, the Iowa Park Rocket, the Frisco Enterprise, the Celina Record, the Ryan (Okla.) Leader, the Bellevue News and the Forestburger.

Harlan is a past president of the North and East Texas Press Association; a former director and first vice president of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce; and has served two terms as president of the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce. He is chairman of the Bridgeport Public Library Trust Fund Committee, which is currently involved in building a new library in Bridgeport.

back to top

William K. Todd

William K. "Bill" Todd's 54-year career in journalism can literally be described as a nationwide venture that has spanned from the farmlands of Illinois to the logging camps of Oregon, from the snow drifts of Michigan to the tropics of South Texas.

Bill Todd began his journalistic career in 1935 when he joined the Rockford (Ill.) Register Republic as a cub reporter. He remained in Rockford only one year however before moving to Chicago in 1936 to work for the Chicago Herald Examiner. During this time, he also attended Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. (1935-36), and Loyola University in Chicago (1936-37).

Bill's career shifted from reporting to circulation in 1937 when he moved to the timberlands of Oregon to become circulation distribution manager of the Portland News Telegram. To his credit, circulation figures were noticeably increased simply by assuring that evening editions were off the press and on the final train heading into the logging camps.

While circulation seemed to become his niche in life, Oregon didn't. His desire to return to the Midwest took Bill back to Illinois where he became circulation manager of the Wheaton Daily Journal in 1938, and then co-circulation manager of the Gary (Ind.) Post Tribune in 1939. It was while he was in Gary that Bill claimed Dorothy Marion Davies as his bride. Their marriage produced a family of six children, two of whom are currently involved in the family newspaper and printing businesses in Texas.

The outbreak of World War II sidelined Bill's newspaper career when his National Guard unit was activated in 1941. Bill became a member of the U.S. Army and advanced to the rank of major while serving in the Pacific Theater.

In 1947, Todd returned to civilian life and rejoined the Rockford (Ill.) Consolidated Newspapers as circulation promotion manager. During his tenure there, he advanced to circulation manager, business manager and associate publisher under his publisher-father, E. Kenneth Todd. In 1952, the Todds purchased Rockford Consolidated Newspapers from the McCormick family of Chicago and retained ownership of The Rockford Morning Star and the Rockford Register Republic until 1967 when both papers were sold to the Gannett Corp.

Bill remained with the Rockford papers under Gannett ownership, serving as president and publisher until 1971 when he "retired" and began planning his Texas newspaper venture. In April 1972, Bill moved his family to Austin and established Todd Publications, Inc. Within one year, he purchased The Cuero Daily Record, The Smithville Times, The Schulenburg Sticker and The Round Rock Leader. In addition, he established two central printing plants, one in Cuero and the other in Smithville. Currently, Bill serves as president of Todd Publications, Inc., which includes The Round Rock Leader and Todd Web Press in Smithville.

In addition to his newspaper interests, Bill has been active in Texas politics and has served an elected term as chairman of the Travis County Republican Party. Through the years, Todd served on numerous committees of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, Inland Daily Press Association, the Texas Press Association, the Central States Circulation Manager's Association and the International Circulation Manager's Association.

Golden 50 — 1990

1990 Recipients

111th Summer Convention, June 23, 1990, St. Anthony Hotel, San Antonio

Joe Fietsam, Floresville Chronicle-Journal
Hallie Stillwell, Alpine Avalanche
Neil Vanzant, Gaines County News
Zaner Robison Benetin, Royse City American

Joe Fietsam

Looking for type lice was part of Joe Fietsam's first newspaper job at the New-Era Herald in Hallettsville, September, 1934. After exterminating the type lice without poison, Joe mastered the folder, the hand-fed press and nearly every model of the lino-intertype. He was tutored by his uncle, the late Leo Strauss, who had bought the paper from the late R. W. Meitzen, and transferred part of the Hallettsville Herald name to the New Era.

Joe had a big year in 1939. He married the former Marjorie E. Hemmi and got a job with the El Campo News. After several months, the couple returned to Hallettsville where Joe resumed his duties at the New-Era Herald. They moved again to the Kerrville Mountain Sun where Joe became an ad man with Mrs. W. A. Salter, the publisher.

The war came along and altered everyone's plans. Joe and Marge moved to work for the Bellville Times, published by the Zeiske family with Franz W. Zeiske, publisher. This adventure lasted until Joe heeded a call from his mother, the late Mrs. F. J. (Tile) Fietsam of the Shiner Gazette.

The move to Shiner lasted from 1942 to 1944 when "Uncle Sam" called Joe to the service. He served 22 months: 14 months in Camp Hood and the remainder in Fort Sill, Okla.. At Camp Hood, he published the "Firing Line," the only printed newspaper at either South or North Camp Hood. While at Fort Sill, Joe was attached to the printing department and was one of four mimeograph operators who cut over one million orders per month as the soldiers were dismissed or transferred.

After his discharge, Joe and Marge had a brief intermission (two weeks) and once again another move, this time to a job with the Sealy News. After three years in Sealy, Joe and Marge bought the Calvert Tribune. While in Calvert, Joe became a charter member of the Calvert Lions Club.

After a brief three years, he was bought out by A. M. Cohen, owner of the Fort Bend Reporter. Joe then yielded to the offer to move and became part-owner of the Fort Bend Reporter. While in Rosenberg, he served as Grand Knight of the Fort Bend County Council for 16 months.

However, another move was in the making as members of the Cohen family moved to Rosenberg. So Joe and Marge sold their interest in the Reporter and moved to Columbus where they headquartered while publishing the New Ulm Enterprise. They bought the paper from the Muenzler family. Nine years later, the couple sold the Enterprise and moved again.

The family: Joe, Marge, their two sons, Don and Jimmy and Jimmy's wife, Mary, and daughter, moved to Floresville and purchased the historic Chronicle-Journal, which was established Jan. 26, 1887.

Today, the Fietsams are owners and publishers of the Chronicle-Journal and the La Vernia News. And they are teaching their grandchildren, Beth, David and Karen, the joys of searching for type lice.

Along this journey, back in 1949, Marge received her baptism in the country weekly newspaper game. She's been a working with Joe side-by-side ever since. Joe attributes all his success to the help and support of his wonderful partner.

back to top

Hallie Stillwell

Being legendary is becoming to Hallie Stillwell. She is probably the most famous rancher/newspaper columnist in West Texas. Since her husband died in 1948, she has been running the 22,000-acre Stillwell Ranch way out in Big Bend country and crafting her column for the Alpine Avalanche which she began writing in 1930.

Texas Monthly featured Hallie in their April 1990 article on the "Grand Dames" of Texas. "They know that power is their prerogative and age is their ally. And don't you forget it," Texas Monthly headlined.

"...she drives herself up to the Stillwell general store, which the family still operates outside Alpine. There, seated on a wooden chair like a wise old queen, she entertains visitors with stories about her early days in ranching, when she lived in a one-room house with her husband and three cowboys, went on cattle drives, survived droughts, and shot a mountain lion between the eyes. People stare at her, mesmerized by her vast antiquity and the ease with which she plays her role as the mother of West Texas."

Hallie has been a stringer for a number of news organizations: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1958-72; San Angelo Standard-Times, 1960-72; and the San Antonio Express, 1960-72. Plus she was a reporter for United Press International from 1960-72. Hallie is so well respected that she writes different columns for competing publications in the same town: "Ranch News" for the Alpine Avalanche and "Hallie Remembers" for the Alpine Avalanche.

She's written one book and co-authored another. "I'll Gather My Geese" has been accepted for publication by Texas A&M Press and, in 1958, she co-authored "How Come It's Called That," published by New Mexico University Press.

As a younger woman, Hallie was a primary education teacher at Presidio, 1916-17, and at Marathon, 1917-18. She was elected to the Marathon school board from 1919 until 1932. Admirers suspect she is still a teacher today.

She was a Justice of the Peace in Brewster County for 15 years and has devoted 40 years as a lecturer to organizations throughout Texas. Mrs. Stillwell is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Cattle Women's Association, American Legion Auxiliary and United Women's Press. Somehow, this busy, remarkable woman found time to learn to fly. She is a member of the Pilot Club of Alpine and Pilot Club International.

The lady loves West Texas. Recently, she told visitors, "I've been staring at the same countryside, the same patches of land, for years and years and it still looks different every time. I've still got a lot to look at, so I don't have time to feel old."

back to top

Neil Vanzant

Journalism and Neil Vanzant are inseparable; one compliments the other. The mutual admiration began in 1925 when young Neil, just out of journalism school, boarded a ship bound for Japan where he became an ad salesman for the Japan Advertiser, English-speaking newspaper in Tokyo.

During his four-year stint in Japan, Neil helped write history as he observed: a ring-side seat during the solemn and year-long ceremonies of burying an emperor... the equally long ceremonies enthroning Emperor Hirohito...a ride on a cruiser behind the new emperor as he reviewed the Japanese grand fleet off Yokohama Bay... a climb to the top of Mount Fuji... a wayout dinner at the home of a White Russian baroness following midnight mass at a Greek Orthodox cathedral at Easter... attendance at the emperor's garden party.

On newspaper business, Neil has traveled around the world... Italy, France, Germany, Scandanavia and England... plus roulette at Monte Carlo, basking on the beach at Nice and visiting a Copenhagen family for a week.

During the war, he was on the beach at Leyte when Gen. Douglas MacArthur waded ashore for his date with history. Once, at Pearl Harbor, he was detailed to the security guard for FDR, MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz in a secret meeting.

Neil uncovered an informant, a former newspaper man, who knew more about the beaches of Okinawa, as a shell collector, than any other American. That amazing story later appeared as an episode on the "Navy Log" television series.

From that exciting beginning, Neil has had a window on the world from a journalist's viewpoint. And he gives credit to his profession for a lifetime of opportunity. Neil once wrote the newspaper business "has given me an opportunity to see and hear every president since Hoover, to sit in on press conferences with candidates such as Richard Nixon, Harold Stassen, Barry Goldwater and assorted politicians in lesser offices."

Stateside, Neil packed his life with professional development and community service. Here is a brief calendar: ad layout, Dallas Times Herald, 1925; ad sales, Japan Advertiser, Tokyo, 1925-29; ad manager, Canadian Record, 1930-31; manager, South Plains Farmer, Lubbock, 1931-35; ad director, Childress Index, 1935-42; U. S. Navy, 1942-45; publisher, Gaines County News, Seagraves, 1946-67 (plus he maintained part ownership until November, 1989); editor, Pioneer Book Publishers, Seagraves, 1976-present.

On the community side, Neil lent his talents and experience while serving as president of a host of organizations: Childress Lions Club; Seagraves-Loop Community Chest; Permian Historical Society; Gaines County Golf Club; South Plains Press Association; and West Texas Press Association. He is a charter member of the Texas Publishers Association; Officer in Charge, Naval Reserve Intelligence Unit, Lubbock; and author of The Beachcomber and the Beachhead, U. S. Naval Institute.

"Don't sell newspapering short as an occupation for the youngsters coming out of school," Neil advises. "How would you like to be a dentist?"

back to top

Zaner Robison Benetin

Founding newspapers is second nature to Zaner Robison Benetin. She and her husband, Bob, opened the Tawakoni News in August, 1963. But they both had a running start.

They started the Caddo Mills Enterprise in 1940. And Bob had begun his newspaper career at age nine in 1913 when he started working for his two uncles at their Kosse Cyclone in Limestone County.

Zaner and Bob assisted Dr. A. Burton in establishing the Royse City American in 1942 and purchased the paper a few months later.

"You had to meet certain requirements to open a newspaper," Zaner noted. "You had to have 240 subscribers before you could get a permit." Smiling, Zaner related to how they first solved that problem. "We went to the town homecoming that year, and that's where we got our list."

She has fond memories of her newsgathering days in an area populated by about 700 people (counting cats and dogs).

Her experience spans the time of handset type through hot metal and finally to offset. She began with handset type at her newspaper in Caddo Mills and could set two-and-a-half galleys. Throwing it back in was the part she hated. But she lived through the hot metal days of three Linotypes at Royse City.

"The fishermen around the lake were good about letting me have their news. I used to love going down to the docks to get the news. I certainly heard a lot of fish stories, though."

The couple kept the newspapers for ten years and then sold to Southern Newspapers of Baytown.

Bob died on January 20, 1975.

Zaner remarried on December 27, 1979, to John Benetin. They went to Puerto Rico but Zaner was called back into the newspaper business by U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall to assist him with his newspaper, the Lakeside American.

Determined to keep a newspaper in Royse City, Zaner helped the Greenville Herald Banner start the Royse City Leader in 1982 in her living room. When they ceased publication in December 1986, two weeks later Zaner, again determined to keep a newspaper in Royse City, assisted Bill Slaughter in starting the Royce City News--once again from her living room. She continues as its central operating figure today on Main Street in Royse City. And, true to form, she still feels an attachment to the Tawakoni News.

When asked her definition of a good paper versus a bad one, Zaner said, "You carry the local news. It doesn't take just a minute to cover the things going on around you, but you've got to take that minute.

"And a good picture with a sharp cutline is worth half a page. Anyway, that's what I believe." Amen.

Golden 50 — 1991

1991 Recipient

112th Summer Convention, June 28, 1991, Marriott Bayfront Hotel, Corpus Christi

Fred V. Barbee Jr.

Fred V. Barbee Jr. is a newspaper man. Always has been. Always will be. He's definitely got ink in his blood, and it is tinted burnt orange.

Fred's entry into newspapering was a textbook example. He started out by throwing them. First the morning editions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and later in the day, his hometown newspaper, the Brownwood Bulletin. This was in 1940 when Fred was 12. And he was hooked. In no time at all, he was promoted to printer's devil and janitor at the Bulletin. That was when he was 13. It was genetics; Fred's father was mechanical superintendent at the Bulletin until his death in 1963.

After finishing schools in Brownwood, this young printer's devil earned his BBA from The University of Texas at Austin in 1951. During his senior year, Fred managed to marry Eleanor McColl of Brownwood who worked with him side by side at various newspapers and radio stations until her death in 1980.

While at the university, Fred worked his way through school as a printer at the University Press printing the Daily Texan five nights a week. That's where the orange mixed with the printer's ink.

Fred left Austin in 1952 to work in the advertising department of the Miami (Okla.) News-Record. And his talent was already shining. Earlier, his work had caught the eye of C.C. Woodson, an old friend from Brownwood, who told the young man to go west to publish the six-day Lamesa Daily Reporter. Fred was 23, and already an 11 year veteran in the newspaper business. And he must have done a pretty good job because he held the position in Lamesa until 1957.

From 1957 to 1968 he was publisher and co-owner with C.C. Woodson of the Seminole Sentinel and co-owner and operator of radio station KTFO in Seminole from 1960 to 1968.

Since 1968, you can see Fred's tracks lots of places: partnership with UT roommate Dick Elam in properties in El Campo and nearby environs. That includes president and co-owner of Bar-B Broadcasting in El Campo; president and publisher and co-owner of the El Campo Leader-News; publisher and co-owner of the Wharton Journal-Spectator; former co-owner of the Edna Herald and Ganado Tribune until they were sold in 1982.

That's a busy professional life. But Fred also has found time to give something back to the profession that chose him. He has been active in many professional associations, serving as president of most, including the Texas Press Association, the West Texas Press Association, the South Texas Press Association, the Gulf Coast Press Association and an active member of both the National Newspaper Association and the American Newspaper Publishers Association.

Throughout his career, Fred has found time for his alma mater and has lent his time and talent toward helping future newspaper men and men. He has served on the Advisory Council of the College of Communication Foundation at UT-Austin since 1980 (with a one year hiatus) and served as chairman in 1984-85.

At home in El Campo, he's been busy with a host of civic organizations: past president of the Rotary Club and is a Paul Harris awardee with 22 years of perfect attendance; served as board member of the El Campo Chamber of Commerce; currently serves on the board of the El Campo Economic Development Corporation, the Wharton County Historical Museum and the Memorial Hospital in El Campo.

In 1981, Fred married Peggy Porterfield, a lady he describes then and now as his best friend.

Fred has four children. And not surprisingly, each is a Longhorn graduate:

Chris Barbee is managing editor of the El Campo Leader-News and a third generation newspaperman; David Barbee is a senior buying executive with Foley's Department Stores in Houston; Karon Barbee, a CPA, is chief financial officer for Texas United Petroleum in Dallas; and Kelly Porterfield is in computer publications in the Department of Afro-American Studies at UT-Austin.

Plus, there are two grandchildren, gifts of Chris and Carol: Jonathan is 10 and Julie Ann is 7.

There you have it. A portrait of a Texas newspaper family. Good folks. Good friends. Good just to be around. Congratulations, Fred.

Golden 50 — 1992

1992 Recipients

113th Summer Convention, June 26, 1992, Four Seasons Hotel, Austin

Billy M. Comedy, Haskell Free Press
Morris T. Higley, Childress Index
Mary and R.B. Palmer, Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune
Robert H. "Bob" Whitten, Navasota Examiner

Billy M. Comedy

Sometimes careful planning has nothing to do with how a career begins. Billy Comedy got started in newspapering by being in the right place at the right time.

In 1937, when Billy's brother quit as printer's devil at the Coleman Democrat Voice, publisher H.H. Jackson asked the 11-year-old if he wanted the job. He accepted the offer, earning 50 cents a week to start. In two or three years, his paycheck tripled to $1.50 a week.

When Billy was in high school, the job became full time. By the time Billy was a senior, he was making $80 a week - more money than his teachers.

In June 1945, Billy joined the Army. After a tour of duty, he returned to the Democrat Voice in 1947 to work for Sam Braswell. In 1948, he worked at the Lamesa Daily Reporter for C. C. Woodson as mechanical superintendent. He also worked in Brownwood, Brownfield and Seminole for the Woodson chain.

Billy bought the Throckmorton Tribune in August 1965 and sold it in 1970. He worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a short time and in August 1970 bought the Haskell Free Press, which he operated until 1986, when he sold the paper to his son, Don.

In May 1985, Billy helped form Rolling Plains Printing Co. Inc. in Haskell. In 1986, he became the owner of Haskell Commercial Printing.

Billy has been active in numerous civic and business organizations, including the West Texas Press Association, in which he served several terms on the board of directors and as president in 1977-78. He is a longtime member of the Texas Press Association and was a member of its board of directors for several years. Other memberships include the Lions Club, Rotary Club, Haskell Industrial Foundation and chambers of commerce. He served as a volunteer fireman in Coleman, Throckmorton, Seminole and Haskell for a total of 35 years.

Billy married Audrey "Bud" Comedy in February 1976. They have four children: Don Comedy, owner-publisher of the Haskell Free Press, Mike Cook, Margaret Wheeler and Sam Cook; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Billy says that in his 54 years in the newspaper business, he has met many fine people and has a stock of fond memories, including a one-on-one visit with President Lyndon B. Johnson during a press convention excursion to the Johnson ranch on the banks of the Pedernales.

His only regret, Billy says, is that he didn't go into business for himself sooner. "If I knew then what I know now, I would've gotten started sooner."

back to top

Morris T. Higley

For 57 years, Morris Higley, publisher of The Childress Index, has been known throughout the Texas Panhandle as a man who speaks his mind.

Higley, 82, was born on his parents' farm in northeast Kansas on Dec. 20, 1909. One of seven children, Higley says he probably wanted to get off the farm more than any of his brothers and sisters.

On July 15, 1930, when he was 20 years old, Higley arrived in Amarillo "on a train in the rain" and was hired as a reporter for the Amarillo Globe-News.

Higley says he learned much of what he knows about newspapers during his days at the Globe-News. He surpassed his bosses' expectations, often writing up to 30 stories a day while serving as movie critic, farm editor and general assignments reporter.

Higley's thirst for a good story almost got him fired when he acted on a tip that Will Rogers was staying at an Amarillo hotel. The ambitious young reporter found the celebrity and conducted a nice little interview. Higley's editor had been trying to set up an interview with Rogers for the past 10 hours but didn't have as much luck.

Higley did not graduate from college, but attended junior college in St. Joseph, Mo., and the University of Missouri before coming to Amarillo. He also attended the University of Oklahoma as a special student where he studied law, government and history while working for the Globe-News.

Five years to the day after moving to Amarillo, Higley found himself at another fork in the road: he chose the road that led to Childress, where he became publisher and editor of The Childress Index.

Higley has made good friends and earned the respect of his peers in Childress. He is listed by the West Texas Chamber of Commerce as one of only two entrepreneurs in the Childress' history.

Childress became his permanent home when he assumed ownership of The Index. He expanded his interests in many directions. He has owned or still owns various papers in Colorado and Oklahoma.

Higley presides over three corporations, including Oxbow Printing, which prints the newspapers in Wellington, Memphis, Shamrock, Clarendon and Wheeler, all in Texas; and the Mangum, Sayre and Hollis newspapers in Oklahoma. He set up the corporation that owns the Sayre and Hollis papers.

Higley also owns Childress Office Supply and has the Radio Shack franchise in Childress.

Life away from the newspaper business has been just as busy for Higley. In the late '50s, he received an appointment from Gov. Price Daniel and served on the first Texas Industrial Commission. A few years later, the governor asked Higley if he would rather serve on the Game and Fish Commission (now the Parks and Wildlife Commission). Higley accepted the appointment.

In the '70s, Gov. Dolph Briscoe appointed Higley to the board of the Red River Authority. Feeling somewhat "served out," Higley declined an offer by Gov. Bill Clements for a post on another commission, telling the governor, "The honor you get is not worth the honor you get."

Higley is a strong civic leader. He has chalked up 56 years of perfect attendance in the Childress Rotary Club, in which he served in practically every club office and as district governor in 1957-58. The Rotary Club rewarded Higley for his civic efforts with the prestigious Paul Harris Fellow award. Higley also is a Mason and a past Exalted Ruler of the Elks.

He was named Childress Citizen of the Year in 1952 and Man of the Year in 1988.

Higley has been married once, in 1935 to the late Carol Vassar Amacker, a terrific journalist and a strong civic leader in her own right.

He has two children, Tom Higley, publisher of the Sayre (Okla.) Journal; and Carol Clem Blackburn, an author, in Lubbock; four grandchildren, Carla Holeva of Midland, Paige Higley of Lubbock, Shawn Blackburn of Amarillo, and Christopher Blackburn, editor of The Childress Index; and a great-granddaughter, Emily Paige of Midland.

There it is, a page in the life of an outstanding journalist and an outstanding man. Congratulations, Morris.

back to top

Mary Palmer

Mary Palmer humbly admits that she is a lucky woman.

After more than 50 years in the newspaper business, she is grateful for the blessings she has received in the form of family support and that of a host of longtime friends.

The Palmer Media Inc. matriarch's tenure in the newspaper business began in Oklahoma during her junior high school years when her father, C.R. Bellatti, and several business partners bought the Blackwell Morning Tribune and Evening News.

Looking back, she realizes her father, a practicing attorney at the time the paper was purchased, led the way to many innovative managerial areas. In fact, he managed to run the paper and continue his law practice at the same time.

Mary helped with the bookkeeping duties during the summer months and, throughout the year, pushed circulation and promotional sales.

In 1939, she met young R.B. Palmer who was working with his father. The elder Palmer had contracted with the Bellattis for a newspaper circulation promotion.

Later, C.R. Bellatti sold the Blackwell Tribune and bought the newspapers in Stillwater, Okla., in 1941.

Believing her three brothers could manage the family's newspaper business the Bellattis now own the Stillwater News-Press - Mary's interest turned to radio. She attended Oklahoma University, obtaining a bachelor's degree in fine arts.

The Palmer family relocated to Titus County in 1941 and R.B. joined the Army in 1942. In February of 1946, a week after he returned from overseas duty during World War II, he and Mary were married. She moved to Mount Pleasant on March 1 that year and immediately began assisting with office duties or "whatever I was asked to do or saw needed to be done" at the family's weekly Titus County Tribune.

"One of the first things I did was to take over the regular writing of the personals," she remembers. Mrs. (Hazel) Palmer and I tried to do at least 100 a week. I also started writing a weekly recipe column featuring a sketch on the person and her favorite recipes."

Mary continued to work following the births of her children. "With a weekly paper, I didn't have to open at a certain time each morning like with a store. I could write notes and Bob would take them into the office to be typed. I learned to stir soup with one hand and hold the telephone (for interviews) with the other."

Like most working women with children, Mary started feeling 24 hours a day wasn't enough to get everything done.

"It's good that the day isn't any longer," she mused. "I remember reading a biography on Calvin Coolidge that kind of took the wind out of my sails. I always believed that extra effort, getting things done and keeping at it was the way to do things, until I read about an incident where Coolidge was taking a late night walk with an FBI man. He turned around, pointing to windows with lights, and said, 'If they were smart, they could get their work done in the daytime.' So, I decided 24 hours wasn't the way to work. If you are smart enough, you can get it done."

Mary remembers significant changes in the industry. She grew up with rapid communications, the radio and teletype, and witnessed the dawning and eventual routine use of computers.

Although she is aware of the advantages of today's technology, she notes at least one disadvantage. "While we don't have the concern of the toxic effects of lead and contamination as we did with the old press machines, what irritates me most with our electronic advances is how quickly they wear out.

"Today, you could take a Ben Franklin press and print on it," she added. "It's never worn out. In five years, this new equipment is gone. It wears itself out. Something is wrong. With the old equipment, if it were kept clean, improvements meant improvement; now improvement means replacement."

Always staying busy, Mary keeps a group of projects planned in advance. "I regret that I don't stop to savor the high points," she admitted. "It seems that I am always rushing off to the next thing."

Friendship is an important factor in her life, as well. "I would say that 90 percent of our employees have been friends. With Bob doing the news stories and attending night meetings, many of the people I knew and could visit with were customers. They were my friends."

She remembers helping her mother-in-law bake small trays of cookies to give to the various stores in the community during the Christmas season. "It was always an effort, but it wasn't just a business thing ...they were our friends."

As she takes into account all that is the Palmer family business, Mary says she sees that the dream of being useful to the community is possible.

"The talent that has been gathered into the community, the newcomers, the college, the hours and hours of dreaming by many people show the potential is here for new dreams to be built," she said. "A republican democracy was founded with the idea of a free people who can read and write and study. In trying to keep information in front of people in interesting and difficult times, they have to assess themselves everyday. I think the newspaper should lay it out there."

Mary doesn't waste too much time asking herself if she should have done differently. "You could wonder forever if there were opportunities you should have taken, but a lifetime of gathering facts and looking for truth to prove a point keeps you on the right path... even though you're disappointed sometimes."

Although the Daily Tribune's day-to-day management is more and more being turned over to a third generation of the family, Mary doesn't feel one generation should feel obliged to another. "If they see the opportunity to help the community and church and stay with the family business, that is their decision," she explained.

She admits that she was surprised when her son, R.L. Palmer, returned to Mount Pleasant. The fact that the town was starting to grow and opportunities were opening, she feels, helped draw him and his peers back home from the larger cities and into their family businesses or those of their own.

"Having young people with their talents and enthusiasm wanting a good family town made Mount Pleasant a home centered, thriving town that is most pleasing," she noted.

"With the problems in the world and the ones we have right here in Mount Pleasant... we can keep it healthy," she added. "We teach the children to seek right and abhor wrong and try to lead a good life."

Mary appreciates the parents and teachers she's come into contact with over the years, those who have taken the time to provide special concerts and lectures, always paving the way for new interests.

And she admits being grateful for the support of her husband and family along the way. "I realize many people don't have any of those things and I admire the winners in life who have had to overcome this lack of support."

A lucky woman?

"Yes, she says. "When you see how much has been given to you, family and friends in this crazy world, it's quite a blessing."

back to top

R.B. Palmer

It has been said that newspapering gets in one's blood. In R.B. Palmer's case, however, the family business has always been newspapering - a legacy he'll leave to a third, and perhaps fourth, Palmer generation.

In celebrating his 51st anniversary of newspapering in Mount Pleasant, however, he attributes his success to a great many people - not the least of them being the residents of Mount Pleasant and the surrounding area.

Mount Pleasant and Titus County held a special fascination almost from the moment he, his father, J. Frank Miner, and his brother, Lloyd, arrived in 1941.

"We could see the potential of Mount Pleasant," he says, remembering early January of 1941 when they passed through the city for the first time and quickly arranged to buy the Titus County Tribune from C.E. Palmer (no relation) of Texarkana. "That's one of the reasons we've been so stubborn about staying. Besides, we like it in Mount Pleasant... always have."

Although his first experience in the newspaper business came as a boy in Illinois, folding papers with an ivory wand, R.B. joined his father and brother in circulation promotions full time in 1938, after having spent a year at the University of Chicago and working in the Detroit area for a year.

J. Frank Palmer had been in the newspaper business - primarily circulation promotion - since 1910. And in joining his father and brother, R.B. embarked on an experience somewhat akin to that of the romanticized barnstorming pilot.

"We ran circulation contests and sales campaigns that took us all over the Midwest," he recalls. "Times were hard was the depression years. But my father made many valuable connections in the business.

"We came through Mount Pleasant in January of 1941, and in talking to C.E. Palmer of Texarkana, who owned the Texarkana Gazette and other newspapers in Arkansas, we learned that the Titus County Tribune was about to be closed. We immediately went to Texarkana, and Dad made arrangements to buy the Tribune for $100.

It wasn't until R. B. had returned home from service overseas during World War II that he learned the verbal deal struck by his father and the previous owner did not include the newspaper's equipment. He would later arrange for the purchase of the newspaper's machinery for $3,500.

At that time, the Tribune was a weekly publication housed in a building on the south side of Mount Pleasant's downtown square. The building would later become part of the old Guaranty Bank and is now a portion of the Titus County Courthouse Annex.

"The first week of publication is one I'll never forget," Palmer said. "We sold about $5.60 worth of advertising and were operating with an old letterpress and a Linotype machine. You hand-fed the press to print one side of the paper, changed the forms and fed the other side through.

"That first issue, our Linotype operator and printer had just put the last two pages on the press and, I guess it was about 9 o'clock that night, started the press... it slung those last two pages against the wall and type went everywhere... he'd forgotten to lock them down.

"It was probably about 4 a.m. before we got the type reset for those two pages and 6 o'clock before we got it printed and to the post office," he added, an amused smile crossing his face at the telling. "It was the first of many all night experiences I've had with this paper."

There have been many more memorable experiences during the past 51 years - a span that has seen the Tribune go from weekly to semi-weekly and, finally, to daily publication.

Certainly, there have been some unpleasant times, and in the remembering, those that were the most trying often come to mind first.

"You go through many troublesome times when you operate a business," Palmer said. "And any successes you have are a result of family, friends, employees and other business associates that have helped you from time to time.

"One important step for us... one that helped us grow... was when the Value Day promotion was started and we began publishing a 10,000-press-run tabloid shopper," he continued. "We started off printing it on our 2-page letterpress and that meant that a piece of paper had to be handled 30,000 times every time we sent it to press.

"For years my father would do the press work and I'd feed the folder. Later, we'd bundle the papers, tie them up and distribute them," he added.

"My father and mother had a great deal to do with any success the Tribune has had," he explained. "My father was a very tough individual. I remember one night we were getting ready to put the paper out and the mats jammed in the distributor of the Linotype. He tried to clear the jam and a heavy iron step fell on his foot. He wouldn't let me do anything but re-set the step and clear the mat jam.

"He sent the printer out to get a pint of whiskey. When he got back, my father loosened his shoe, poured half the whiskey down his shoe, drank the rest and went to work. The next day he went to the doctor and was told he had broken two toes."

Although the Tribune always has been, and probably always will be, labor intensive, the patriarch of the Palmer family remembers the process involved in deciding to switch to offset printing.

"The Clarksville Times was the first paper in Northeast Texas to go offset," he explained. "I visited them, but still wasn't sure. So, I went to Dallas to see about a plant that could print our paper.

"By that time, Dad had pretty well turned the paper over to me," he added. "We'd gotten a couple of Justowriters and a stripper and began producing the paper with cold type. We'd paste up the pages, then I'd take them to Garland to have them printed. There were times when I'd have to over inflate the tires on that old station wagon because of all the weight we were hauling back and forth."

After seeing the convenience offset printing afforded and the amount of time it saved in production, R.B. and his father agreed that they could begin printing twice weekly.

As a semi-weekly, the Tribune was printed in Garland, then in McKinney and later in Gladewater.

Soon after the decision to have the paper printed in Gladewater was made, several other publishers in the area Fred Napp of the DeKaib News, Chili Cochran of the Cass County Sun in Linden, Lee Narramore of the Naples Monitor and Harold Pope of the Bowie County Citizens Tribune in New Boston - joined R.B. in founding Publishers Press Inc., which placed an offset printing plant in Naples.

With the central plant located closer to Mount Pleasant, it became apparent that daily publication was possible, and the Daily Tribune made its debut in November of 1969.

"The first six months we operated as a daily, I didn't have a wire service," he noted. "The Daily Times (the Tribune's competitor) had its service with the Associated Press, so I contacted UPI, but found their rates were outrageous.

"So, every morning I'd turn on the radio and re-write both what they broadcast and wire stories from other dailies, and that was our state, national and international news until I later found out the Associated Press couldn't give an exclusive franchise to one paper in a market. I approached them, their rates were very reasonable and we've had them ever since."

The Daily Tribune underwent another significant transition in 1972 when Robert L. Palmer returned home from the service and joined his father in publication of the paper.

That summer the Palmers made arrangements to buy their daily competitor, the Mount Pleasant Daily Times and Times Review.

"With that consolidation and growth, I could see the need for being able to print the paper in Mount Pleasant," R.B. said. So, two of the members associated with us in Publishers Press, Napp and Pope, joined the two of us in forming Nortex Press Inc. We bought a press and began central plant operations in Mount Pleasant in 1973.

"It s pretty clear that we needed a larger press and better facilities than we could secure in a downtown location, so we bought the property where we're currently located during the later part of 1983.

"Initially, we purchased the land and the large metal building on it, and made plans to first move the press and circulation. Later, we decided on a new larger press and remodeling."

On Jan. 13, 1985, the Palmers began construction on the present newspaper office building and remodeling the existing facility. The company's growth continues today, and the Palmers have acquired property north of the paper's property for future expansion. It is almost certain that any future expansion by the Tribune will not come at the expense of the paper being sold to a chain - an occurrence that has become all too familiar in today's newspaper industry.

The elder Palmer makes little secret of the pride he takes in the Tribune being a "family affair."

"The dominant people at the start, of course, were my father and mother, then gradually Mary and I took over more and more responsibility," he said. "Now my son has assumed duties as publisher with his wife taking an active role in the paper, and this summer our granddaughter, Amber, is working in our advertising department.

"Looking back now after more than 50 years of working with the Tribune, I'd have to say a major portion of the success is due to two women - my mother, Hazel Palmer, and my wife, Mary.

"I've always thought Mary was one of the bravest women I've ever known," he added. "I met her when she was working for her father's newspaper in Blackwell, Okla. Our paths went separate ways but shortly after I was inducted into the Army in April of 1942, I recall being lonely and writing her out of a clear blue sky. She was attending the University of Oklahoma at the time.

"A year or so later, after getting my commission, I took leave and went to visit my brother and his family in Oklahoma City. Mary came up and we were engaged to be married then."

It would be a lengthy engagement of physical separation.

"When I returned to camp in California, I heard that we were alerted to ship overseas," he continued. "It was Jan. 30, 1946, before I could call her from Camp Kilmer, N.J., to tell her I was back in the States and to ask her when we were getting married."

When he returned to Mount Pleasant, he again called Mary and was informed she had reserved the church in Stillwater for Feb. 11.

"After a short honeymoon, she returned to Mount Pleasant with me and has been involved in the family business ever since," he said. And if someone were to ask who has the brains in the family, I'd say, 'She does.'

"Three children and six grandchildren later," he adds with a smile, "she still puts up with me, for which I am very grateful."

The role the three Palmer children have played in the newspaper's growth is also a source of pride. R.B. admits it has been particularly rewarding to see his son follow in his footsteps as the Tribune's publisher.

"For some time now, he has been responsible for operation of the Tribune," he noted, but the girls, Frances and Barbara, have put in their time, too."

Frances and her husband, Mike Lobpries, now have their own paper in Archer City, and Barbara, the Palmer's youngest child, received her degree in interior design at Texas Tech, and after graduation, worked at the Tribune before getting into the design field full time. She has supervised two remodelings of the Tribune's offices and designed the newspaper's current facility.

The true secret to Palmer's success may lie in the priorities he places on news affecting his community.

"I do have a different view from most newsmen about what constitutes important stories," he admits. "The Korean Conflict, Kennedy's assassination, and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. ... they're important events, but they don't seem to me to be the most important news to our area."

He instead pointed to "covering and developing stories about the building of Lone Star Steel; the years of work and endless meetings it took to get Lake Bob Sandlin permitted and constructed; construction of the Monticello power plant and its mines, bringing Interstate 30 closer to Mount Pleasant; and stories on the development of our hospital... those are the important stories to me.

"I've always had a greater interest in news about the people of Titus County, and what directly affects them, rather than that which we can do nothing about... only gape at the headlines."

back to top

Robert H. "Bob" Whitten

Robert H. "Bob" Whitten, a former president of the Texas Gulf Coast Press Association, got his start in the newspaper business with a broom, sweeping the sidewalk in front of the Navasota Examiner office. Shortly after his father, J.G. Whitten, and George T. Spears purchased the newspaper on May 1, 1924, Bob - then a first-grader - had a paper route.

He graduated to printer's devil, casting type and handfeeding an old No. 7 Babcock Standard. He continued to wield a broom, take out the trash and run errands.

In 1936, Bob's father sold his interest in the Examiner to Spears and moved the family to Austin. Bob graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1940.

He worked one summer for M.W. Trussell at the San Saba Star before volunteering for the U.S. Navy officer training program. During World War II, he served aboard the USS Sumner, a hydrographic survey vessel in the South Pacific, producing charts for Adm. Halsey's Third Fleet.

On a 30-day leave in 1944, he married Marianna Faulkner of Austin, whom he had met in college. He returned for 18 months of duty. After the war, he worked a year and a half for Walter and Addison Buckner as news editor at the San Marcos Record. He returned to Navasota in 1947 when he and his father purchased the Examiner back from Spears. The newspaper has been operated by the Whitten family ever since.

In the 1940s, the newspaper's equipment was old and needed to be replaced. The first purchase was a $15,000 Model C Intertype. Such purchases left little money for personnel, so Bob handled all of the editorial work himself. He gathered the news and ran the business during the day and wrote at night.

Among the highlights of his career was the publishing of a 64-page edition to coincide with Navasota's centennial celebration in 1954. He was proud that the edition was produced without overtime. The staff started six months in advance, finishing an eight-page section on their four-page Babcock press each Thursday after the regular weekly run.

In 1958, Bob received a Headliner Club award in Austin for a photograph he took of the demolition of the old city hail building in Navasota. He stood outside most of the day with a 4x5 Speed Graphic camera, waiting for the right moment to catch the fall of the hail's tower clock. The photo was picked up by the Associated Press for $5 and used worldwide, including papers in London and Hong Kong.

While serving as secretary of the TPA in 1961, Bob was among a group of Texas newspapermen invited to a special luncheon at the White House to discuss state and national affairs. He was seated next to President John F. Kennedy and across from Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. Bob describes the late president as a friendly, down-to-earth man who wore rumpled socks and talked about his family rather than world issues.

In 1960, Bob started a daytime-only AM radio station and later added an FM station. He sold both earlier this year to McMullen Broadcasting Company.

Bob also has been active in the community. In 1983, he received the Grimes County Citizen of the Year award from the chamber of commerce. He has served as an officer in the First Presbyterian Church of Navasota since 1947. He presently serves as chairman of a senior retirement housing center and on a committee of the Navasota Golf Association.

Bob and Marianna have four children, Robert J. Whitten Jr., a partner in the Coopers & Lybrand accounting firm in Houston; Dorothy Chapman, a 7th grade math teacher at Kingwood; Kent Whitten, president and general manager of Grover Printing in Houston; and Clark Whitten, editor and publisher of the Examiner; and eight grandchildren.

These days, Bob tends to favor a game of golf in the afternoon rather than a stay in the office. After more than 50 years as a newsman, he's earned it.

Golden 50 — 1993

1993 Recipients

114th Summer Convention, June 25, 1993, Sheraton Fiesta Hotel, San Antonio

Bill C. Foster, Waco Citizen
Alma Lee Holman, Taylor Daily Press
Wilma Petrusek, Sealy News
Grace and James R. "Buddy" Yoder, Weimar Mercury  

Bill C. Foster

When Bill Foster was 11 years old, he decided it was time to make a career decision: He liked photography, but the newspaper business intrigued him, too. His father, the late W.S. "Bill" Foster, began newspapering in Corpus Christi when he was 11.

Young Bill decided on the newspaper business because it would allow him to do both. By the ninth grade, he would spend his after-school hours working at the Waco Citizen office, which had just been opened.

Following graduation from high school and after learning that photography was more challenging that he expected, Bill enrolled at Baylor University, where he took classes in English and advertising.

His primary talent in the newspaper business over the past 50 years has been selling advertising, although he flunked that course at Baylor, after arguing with the teacher who said the lowest cost per thousand was in radio.

In 1953 the year a tornado struck Waco Bill married Camelia Ann Rentz. Later, she too joined the Citizen staff.

She received valuable on-the-job training with her father-in-law, a lawyer, and founder of the Citizen. During her 35-year career at the Citizen, Camelia made impressive contributions to the newspaper's news content, including fine investigative reporting.

Camelia suffered a heart attack while attending the National Newspaper Association convention in San Antonio in October 1988. She died May 5, 1990.

Bill and Camelia had two daughters. Cheryl became an expert computer operator and today works for Johnson & Johnson and travels the world. Jennifer, 12 years younger than Cheryl, was named a vice president of the Citizen in April of this year. She is married to Richard Latham.

One of the best issues the Citizen ever published was in 1953. The newspaper covered a homosexual convention in Waco that featured a wedding. The Citizen printed the names of 50 prominent businessmen in attendance, a story the daily newspaper ignored. Additional copies continued to be printed on the Goss Duplex the rest of the week as copies were sold out. The edition included a photo by AP photographer Jimmy Willis showing a man wearing a beautiful wedding dress.

Waco was the home of the 112th Air Force and Connally Air Base. This gave Foster an opportunity to travel with the general when he went on trips to visit the bases under his command.

One year Bill went along when a division from Fort Hood was airlifted to Germany. On that trip he visited France, a ski area in Germany and Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.

At one time Bill's father, who died in 1980, along with some partners, was associated with several Texas newspapers: Waco Press, Waco Record, Waco American, Brady Herald, DeLeon Free Press, Stamford American, Victoria Mirror and Odessa Herald. During his long career, he served as a Linotype operator on the Waco Tribune Herald, Dallas Times Herald and Dallas Morning News.

One of the most difficult times in Bill's life began in 1965 when he learned that his newspaper building would be torn down as part of an urban renewal project in downtown Waco. He was forced to find another building in mid-town Waco.

In 1960, the Citizen became the first Central Texas weekly to convert to offset. "We bought some of the first Justowriters sold," Foster said. A new three-unit Goss press eventually replaced the Vanguard; a new camera was purchased and new carpet and drapes were added to the building.

Soon business boomed in the new Citizen plant, and one of the first open houses held was for TPA members attending an advertising clinic in Waco.

Gibson's was one of the Citizen's biggest customers until the store closed. One of the more interesting printing jobs was the Baylor Lariat. Foster was instrumental in changing it from a hand-fed letterpress located on the campus to offset in his plant.

Another big printing job was the Bryan Press. Three 30,000 press runs on Tuesday nights proved to be too much for his pressroom crew. This, along with printing 30,000 shoppers for the Citizen, prompted Foster to install two more Goss units in December 1992.

At the 1993 TPA midwinter convention, Bill met Al and Jean Storrs who were looking for a new challenge. In April they were named managers of Citizen Newspapers Inc. The Storrs are busy computerizing the entire plant now. Al Storrs started in the newspaper business with the Riesel Rustler.

Bill is the historian for the First United Methodist Church, which was established in 1850, making it the oldest institution in Waco. For 10 years he has served as public relations chairman of the Lions Clubs of district 2-X3.

In May of this year, Foster married Ellen Campbell, whom he describes as "a wonderful lady about my age."

The Citizen is a member of the Texas Press Association, Texas Community Newspapers and the National Newspaper Association.

back to top

Alma Lee Holman

Alma Lee Holman has been a newspaper editor and owner. And today, well into her 80s she is still covering a regular beat for The Taylor Daily Press as well as writing features and local news.

In between, she has been a wife and mother, a school teacher and school board member, a Democratic State Committeewoman, active in her church and community, and Taylor's first Woman of the Year. The list goes on and on, and her active participation in many areas continues.

Alma Lee's first exposure to journalism came in the early 1940s when she joined the staff of The Taylor Daily Press, where she wrote a column and directed the advertising department, even filling in as editor while many of the men were off at war.

That continued until later that decade when she, Wilson Fox and auto dealer K.L. McConchie bought the weekly Taylor Times from Don Scarbrough. She was managing editor for several years until they sold the weekly, which eventually was merged with The Daily Press.

Joining her husband, Fritz Holman, in the electrical appliance and toy store, Alma Lee was away from the newsroom for a few years. Then Bob Mathis, managing editor of The Daily Times asked her to come back to work for "about three months." The short term job continued for more than two decades. She became society editor of the paper, a position she continued until the early 1980s, when she moved back to a reporter's desk covering county government and the schools.

In 1988, Alma Lee tried to retire from the newspaper. But that didn't last long. She was soon back at her desk part time, covering the county commission and county government, not a particularly easy task since Taylor is not the county seat. In addition, she regularly provides feature stories and news coverage of local activities.

Alma Lee started newspapering in the days of manual typewriters. She is working today in an era of computers and desktop publishing. The technological shift has not passed her by. Learning to use the primitive word processors, which were The Daily Press's first venture into the field, Alma Lee later bought her own computer - a PC - for use at home. When the newspaper leaped ahead in technology in 1992, installing Macintoshes, she quickly found her way around the new system.

While many people her age want nothing more than to stay close to their own living room, Alma Lee's living room has been the world. In recent years she has traveled to Europe and the Middle East, Canada, and all over the United States. She spent part of a summer in a special course at Oxford University. She supported the creation of a Lutheran Church in Guadalajara, Mexico, and she recently returned from a stay there to write the church's history.

"Alma Lee Holman is truly an amazing person," Daily Press Editor Don McAlister said. "She continues to be a main stay of our news room, and a key player in our community. She has meant a lot to our profession in the last half century."

back to top

Wilma Petrusek

Wilma Petrusek began her newspaper career on Nov. 2, 1942, when she went to work for The Sealy News. Most of those almost 51 years have been with The News with the exception of a couple of short stints totaling 15 months with The Bellville Times between the latter part of 1944 and 1946. During those years The Times was owned by Jane Brune's parents and Wilma worked in the office.

Wilma returned to The Sealy News when the paper was sold to a Houston area group, and soon thereafter was acquired by Mescal A. Soloman, who had been a part of The News staff for many years.

When she began working for the newspaper she did simple writing and reporting, and then moved into more extensive writing, advertising, photography and feature writing. At that time, the newspaper operated a commercial printing plant and she performed related duties with that portion of the operation.

She assumed the role of editor when owner-publisher Soloman moved to California in 1963, and she and Earl Luedecke shared in the operation of the business. They became partners with Soloman until the newspaper was sold on Feb. 1, 1993 to Jim Grimes. The News print shop was discontinued following the sale.

In addition to her journalistic involvements, which have been a large part of her life, Wilma has been involved in various aspects of community life. She is a lifetime member of the First United Presbyterian Church of Sealy where she has served as Sunday school teacher and on the board of elders She has played the piano and organ for more than 50 years, and she is currently vice president of the Presbyterian Women.

A member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit for 43 years, she has held the offices of secretary, president and chaplain. She belongs to the Sealy Business and Professional Women's Club, the Sealy Area Historical Society, the Austin County Unit of the American Cancer Society, the Greater Sealy Area Chamber of Commerce and the Stephen F. Austin Park Association.

Wilma was recognized by the B&PW Club as woman of the year in 1983. The Austin County Soil and Water Conservation District honored her with a professional journalism award in 1989; and the Austin County Bar Association presented her with the Liberty Bell Award. The presentation was made by noted attorney Racehorse Haynes of Houston. She has received recognition by the Sealy Rotary Club, Lions Club and the Knights of Columbus.

Upon her 50th year in the newspaper business, a banquet in Wilma's honor was held, with 440 people crowded into a hall that holds 400. The proceeds went to start a scholarship for a local high school student wishing to pursue a journalism career. Nov. 13, 1991 was declared Wilma Petrusek Day by the County Commissioners.

"Although she has completed more than 50 years of service, she shows no signs of slowing down," Grimes said.

"She still works full-time and not a meeting, banquet or community function happens without Wilma in attendance with her camera and notebook."

Wilma, the daughter of the late Charles and Mathilda (Maresh) Petrusek, says journalism has been her first love. Her church and community have been her outside interests. She says God has truly blessed her.

back to top

James R. "Buddy" Yoder

James R. "Buddy" Yoder had chalked up 58 years in the newspaper business before he sold The Weimar Mercury earlier this year. The Mercury had been in the Yoder family for 80 years.

Buddy's father, R.H. Yoder, bought The Mercury in 1913. Buddy was 13 when he started working at the newspaper in 1935.

He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1943 and served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years.

During World War II, Buddy provided courtesy copies of The Mercury to servicemen and women from his community. He also maintained a bulletin board in his office with names and addresses of military personnel from the Weimar community. Buddy served in the Pacific Theater of Operations and attained the rank of captain before he was discharged. After the war, he helped plan and build Veteran's Memorial Hall in Weimar.

Buddy and his wife, Grace, were married in April 1944.

In 1946, Buddy joined his father as editor and publisher of The Mercury. That partnership continued for 15 years, until R.H. retired in 1961. Then, Buddy and Grace bought R.H.'s half-interest in the newspaper.

Weimar has benefited from Buddy's energy and community spirit for years. He was a member of the Weimar City Council for 24 years, president and secretary of Weimar United Church of Christ and scoutmaster of the Weimar Boy Scout Troop. He is a long-standing member and former post commander of the American Legion.

Buddy is a member and past president of the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and Weimar Parent Teachers Association. He was presented a plaque by the Weimar Independent School District Board of Education for 50 years of covering school events and promoting community spirit.

back to top

Grace Yoder

Grace Yoder, a Schulenburg native, worked side-by-side with her husband, James R. "Buddy" Yoder, during his many years as editor and publisher of The Weimar Mercury. She is a Schulenburg High School and University of Texas graduate.

Buddy and Grace were married April 8, 1944.

She was a nursing assistant at Camp Swift, Texas, and at the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., during World War II.

Grace, like Buddy, devoted much of her time and energy to the people of Weimar, serving in church, community and civic organizations.

Grace is a sustaining member of Pink Ladies at Colorado Fayette Memorial Hospital. She is a former Girl Scout and Brownie leader and Cub Scout den mother; a member and officer of Weimar Women's Club for 34 years; and a choir member, Sunday school teacher, church officer and Women's Guild member and officer at Weimar Church of Christ.

She is a sixth-generation Texan and was an active member of Daughters of the Republic of Texas. She served as president for four years.

The Yoders have two children and four grandchildren. Their daughter, Karen, is married to U.S. Army Major Roger L. Williamson, who is stationed in Korea. Eric, 18, and Stephen, 16, are their sons.

Their son, Dr. Kenneth Yoder, is a surgeon in Tucson, Ariz. He and his wife, Kathy, have a son, Dustin, 10, and a daughter, Kristen, 8.

Golden 50 — 1994

1994 Recipients

115th Summer Convention, July 1, 1994, Worthington Hotel, Fort Worth

Walter L. "Bud" Buckner, Llano News
Weldon Hillis, Robstown Record
J.G. "Scoop" Richards, Aransas Pass Progress
Joe Vyvjala, Schulenburg Sticker  

Walter L "Bud" Buckner

Walter L. "Bud" Buckner grew up in the newspaper business in San Marcos where he and his family owned and operated the: San Marcos Record and the Daily Record for more than 60 years.

It was a family affair. Bud's grandfather TA. Buckner, who was a, printer's devil and news reporter on the Bandera paper before the turn of the century, purchased the Record in 1921. Bud's father, Walter, was editor of the San Marcos Record for many years while his Uncle Addison was backshop foreman. Cousins Tom, news editor, and Kay, who ran the news and printing presses, were also part of the team.

Bud got his start attending the 1932 TPA Summer Convention with his father and mother at the ripe old age of six months. He has been attending them ever since except for a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy.

He cast "pigs" for the old Linotypes in San Marcos and helped stuff the Record at eight years of age. He worked extensively in the job printing department after school and during summers.

Bud is a graduate of San Marcos High School, attended the University of Texas and has a journalism degree from Southwest Texas State University.

In 1956, Bud marred the former Sarah Jane Haby of Uvalde. They have three children: Gene is married and lives in Castroville; Melinda is also married and lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut; and Sally lives in Austin.

Bud, helped in the Record's advertising department during his college days and spent 44 months in the U.S. Navy. He stayed in the Naval Reserve upon his return to San Marcos from active duty and recently retired with the rank of Lieutenant, Commander.

In 1959, be took over as advertising director of the Record and assumed the same position when the newspaper went daily in 1973.

After selling the papers in 1975, Bud was hired as news editor and associate publisher of the Uvalde Leader-News in 1976. In 1983, Bud and Sarah purchased the Llano News from Hal and Hazel Cunningham and moved to Llano.

Bud has been active in all areas of small-town newspapers: advertising, news reporting, editorial writing and photography. He especially enjoys editorial writing and sports photography.

"I love to point out some of the 'shortcomings' of our county commissioners. I assume they are about the same 'caliber' statewide," he says.

Bud says he is one of the oldest sports photographers in time of service in Texas, having learned the finer points from Uncle Addison. He was using a twin-lens Rollerflex when he was 14. He still takes football, basketball, baseball and track photos of the Llano Yellow Jackets for the Llano News.

"I find it still very exciting taking pictures of sporting events. I never know exactly what I have until the film is developed. I've taken lots of terrible pictures and a few good ones," he said.

Bud has been active in community affairs in San Marcos, Uvalde and Llano. He served as a member and president of the San Marcos school board, director and officer of the three cities' chambers of commerce, South Texas Chamber of Commerce, San Marcos Kiwanis Club president, Llano Lions Club and the San Marcos Library Board.

He spent a year in Washington, D.C., on the staff of Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, when Johnson was Senate Majority Leader.

Bud has been active in the Texas Press Association, having served as treasurer and director several times. He was TPA Midwinter program chairman in San Antonio when Jim Barnhill was president in 1967. He served on the selection committee to procure the present home of TPA. He has been involved in advertising seminars sponsored by TPA. He is also a long-time member of the South Texas Press Association and was president in 1977. His wife, Sarah, was president of STPA last year. His father, Walter, was president of TPA in 1939.

"I look forward to the meetings of my Texas Press Association," Bud said. "I enjoy visiting with old friends and meeting the new and younger members. I continue to learn something new every day about newspapering. It is a wonderful profession and 1 consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve."

back to top

Weldon Hillis

Weldon Hillis was 20 years old and fresh out of the Texas School for the Deaf when he ended up in South Texas looking for his first job as a Linotype operator. He came to Robstown to visit his friend, Elbert Sikes. The two not only became lifelong friends while in Austin, they also were the top honor graduates of their class.

Weldon arrived in Robstown in September 1940 and went to the local newspaper, The Robstown Record, to seek a job as a Linotype operator.

The Record was owned by Sam L. Fore Jr. of Floresville, who served as president of the Texas Press Association in 1920. The editor, Roy Swift, decided to give the young man a try on "the machine." A short time later, the boss called Weldon in and explained that he was too slow on the Linotype and that he would have to take a cut in pay from 25 cents to 15 cents per hour. Weldon moved over to work around the presses.

The next year, Fore's daughter and son-in-law, Marion and Carroll Keach, moved to Robstown and took over management of the newspaper.

Weldon and his wife, Gerry, married in Robstown in 1941. For a few years after that, they lived in West Texas, where Weldon worked as a Linotype operator at newspapers in Littlefield and Levelland.

They returned to Robstown in September 1944, never to leave again. Weldon retired in October 1993, with 53 active years in the business.

Ten years after his return to Robstown, Weldon became foreman of the "back shop," as it was called. In those letterpress days, the shop alone had 14 men working to produce The Record and a large amount of "job printing."

Current editor and publisher, Sam Fore Keach, was only two days old the first time Weldon saw him. Young Sam began work at the newspaper when he was 12 years old. Weldon has worked with five generations of the Fore-Keach family. Sam Fore's great-grandson, Chris Krueger, 10, writes a weekly column for the newspaper.

Weldon, like others of his generation, has seen remarkable changes in the newspaper industry, including the switch from a flat-bed letterpress to rotary offset printing, and now, highly sophisticated desktop publishing.

In 1989, The Robstown Record was combined with The Westem Star, a suburban Corpus Christi newspaper owned by the Keach family, and was renamed The Nueces County Record Star.

Weldon lost his hearing at the age of nine due to diphtheria, but he never has been a "quiet" man by any stretch of the imagination. Not only was he an active supervisor of his fellow workers, he distinguished himself in the area of deaf awareness long before it was a popular cause.

He served eight years on the Texas Commission for the Deaf, including a term as chairman and has held numerous offices in the Coastal Bend Silent Club and the Texas Association of the Deaf. He was president of the Corpus Christi Area Council for the Deaf when its center was built in Corpus Christi.

Gerry and Weldon Hillis are the parents of a son, Weldon Hillis Jr., who lives in Corpus Christi; two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

"Weldon is like a father to me," Sam Keach says. "I grew up around him. We have become special friends. He taught me much of what I know about the printing business.

"He gave me a special feeling for those who have an inconvenience, not a handicap, because they cannot hear. He has never felt sorry for himself and he has not let it slow him down. He is a shining example to everyone."

Now that he is retired, Weldon enjoys fishing and visiting with friends, especially Elbert Sikes, who still lives in Robstown. Weldon Hillis is indeed a special person.

back to top

J.G. "Scoop" Richards

It is remarkable that The Aransas Pass Progress, which was founded in 1909 strictly as a publicity organ to promote land sales in the area, has endured for 85 years. And it is equally remarkable that J.G. "Scoop" Richards has weathered 50, years in the newspaper business considering his unusual entry into the profession in 1944. None of his relatives before him had been newspaper people and when he purchased his first newspaper he had never even been inside a newspaper plant. But he admits that even while in high school he had an urge to write.

Richards grew up in the Hill, Country, graduated from high school in Medina, Texas in 1927, and was working for Humble-Oil and Refining Co. at Ingleside when he got his first taste of newspapering. While in high school he became well acquainted with J. Marvin Hunter Jr.-of Bandera, son of the weekly newspaper, publisher. They became good friends clue to scholastic events. Their, friendship was renewed when Hunter came to Ingleside and started working for the refinery where Richards was employed.

Hunter bought a home in Ingleside and in a short time moved in printing equipment, which he set up in his garage. It included a two-page newspaper press, an old Model L Linotype and a few trays of type. In a short time, more or less as a hobby, he founded the Ingleside Item, a four-page weekly. The Item was a welcome addition to Ingleside's small business community and it seemed to be doing well in 1944. Hunter heard of what he considered an attractive deal on the purchase of a good weekly in west central Texas. Hunter bought the larger weekly and since he was leaving Ingleside he urged Richards to buy The Item.

Although neither had any newspaper experience, Richards and his wife, Alice accepted Hunter's proposal and promptly found themselves in the newspaper business, although more or, less on a part-time basis.

World War II was under way and Richard full-time in the office at the Ingleside refinery but be found time off the job to gather and write news items for the four-page paper. Hunter gave Alice a crash course on the Linotype before leaving for his new location, so she set type and sold and set ads while riding herd on their, three young children, the eldest of whom was Dick. He was seven at the time.

Although The Item was only a four-page publication, the inexperienced new owners at first encountered many production problems, but each week meant added experience, and in a few months the operation was running well.

World War II ended and right on the heels of that good news came the shocking news that Humble was shutting down and abandoning its Ingleside refinery. Since the community's economy was so dependent on the refinery, Richards concluded that there was no future for the Item and decided to discontinue the newspaper. The equipment was sold to three returning servicemen who were setting up a plant in Victoria.

Thus in short order Richards found himself out of the newspaper business just as abruptly as he had entered it only a few months earlier.

With 13 years' service with, Humble, Richards was planning to transfer to Houston with the company when his work at Ingleside was completed. But influenced by the fact that he had three small children and a home in Ingleside he decided it best to remain in this area.

While publishing the Ingleside newspaper, Richards had become well acquainted with E.W. Terry and Wayne W. Welch, publishers of The Aransas Pass Progress, and not long after Richards terminated his employment with Humble, Terry offered to sell him his half interest in The Progress. A deal was promptly completed and on Oct. 1, 1946, Richards became a partner and half owner with Welch in the operation of The Progress. Welch was a veteran newspaperman especially, strong in advertising and Richards took over the news side. They shared many other production duties, but before finding a dependable Linotype operator they went through what seemed like half the drunk operators west of the Mississippi.

In due time the operator problem was solved, business was good, and The Progress enjoyed a long, period of steady growth under direction of the partnership. Welch died unexpectedly in 1959 leaving Richards to run the newspaper without the help of his good friend and capable partner.

The newspaper operation became a family affair when in 1963 Richards was joined in business by his son, Dick, who had just completed a tour of duty in the U.S. Navy.

Then in 1964 came the conversion to offset. To accomplish this, Richards teamed up with neighboring publishers James F. Tracy of Sinton and Caroll Keach of Robstown and set up a central printing plant at Sinton. It was incorporated as Roto-Lith Printing Company and was among the first offset newspaper printing plants in South Texas. Richards recalls that the switch to offset generated many problems at first and several press runs were well below usual quality before the new technique was mastered and things returned to normal.

The Richards purchased the Ingleside index from Carter Snooks in the early 1970s and in 1980 set up a corporation known as Richards Enterprises, which includes The Aransas Pass Progress and The Ingleside Index, Progress Office Supply, and Progress Printing Company.

Richards attended his first South Texas Press Association convention in 1947 and has been an active member of the association since that time. He was STPA president in 1964-65. He treasures his many friendships within the association and enjoys pointing out that at the time, he served as STPA president, the president of the Texas Press Association, the governor of Texas and the president of the United States were all from the STPA district.

If all goes well, Richards will receive the Golden 50 Award in recognition of 50 years service to journalism at the TPA Summer Convention in June. Making the occasion even more special for Richards is the fact that his son, Dick, will become president of TPA at the same convention.

back to top

Joe Vyvjala

Slugs and chases, Linotypes and Klueges. No, they're not creatures from deep within the earth or from another planet.

For Joe Vyvjala, former publisher of The Schulenburg Sticker, they were part of a livelihood that started in 1942 and ended Aug. 13, 1993, when Vyvjala retired on his 65th birthday.

While a freshman at Flatonia High School in 1942, Vyvj ala began working for The Flatonia Argus and publisher T.F. Nycum, where he learned to operate a Linotype machine. 

"When I started, newspapering was a different world," Vyvjla says. "Back then, whole pages of metal lines of type were locked into a 'chase' to bold them together and the 50 pound newspaper-size forms had to be lifted into position on the press."

Vyvj ala said putting out an eight-page paper in the early 1940s was a labor-intensive operation vastly different from today's computer-produced variety.

After working at the Argus until he graduated from high school, Vyvjaia was offered a job at Nycum's newspaper in Irving. While working in Irving, he attended the University of North Texas (North Texas State at the time) in Denton. He graduated with a B.S. degree in business administration and a minor in journalism.

Beginning in 1952, Vyvjala spent two years in the U.S. Marine Corps, with an assignment to work in darkroom photography and the printing of maps. He spent seven months in Japan before returning home to Flatonia and going to work for the LaGrange Journal.

In 1956, he got job at the Sticker, where he spent the remaining 37 years of his newspaper career.

For several years beginning in 1967, Vyvjala and his wife, Maxine, leased the Sticker. In 1975, Joe and Maxine, along with Maxi J. Nickel bought the Sticker. But because of a previous lease agreement, Nickel and Vyvj ala did not assume the title of publishers until 1977.

In 1984, Vyvjala purchased all the assets of the Sticker and became its sole owner.

"During the- past half-century new technology has revolutionized the newspaper industry," Vyvj ala said. The appearance of today's Sticker would have been impossible 20 years ago, he said.

In 1988, the newspaper converted to Macintosh desktop publishing and in 1992, the last Linotype, occasionally used by Vyvjala for job printing composition, was disassembled.

Although he is "retired," Vyvjala devotes part of his time to his two favorite hobbies - tarocks (a card game) and carpentry. And his carpentry skills are being put to good use at Flatonia Argus where he started his career. In March, Joe's wife, Maxine, and their son-in-law, Paul Prause, purchased the Argus from Don and Beverly Clark.

In January, the Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce presented Vyvjala a handsome plaque in recognition of his many contributions to the business community.

back to top

Publication of The Schulenburg Sticker remains very much a family endeavor: Joe is publisher emeritus; Joe's wife, Maxine, is business manager; daughter, Diane Prause, serves as editor; and son, Darrell, is a staff writer.

Joe Vyvj ala, a newspaperman's newspaperman, likes it that, way.


Golden 50 — 1996

1996 Recipients

117th Summer Convention, Friday, June 21, 1996, Tremont House, Galveston

Richard E. "Dick" Dwelle, Athens Daily Review
Paul I. Griffith Jr., Cleburne Times-Review
Vernon Greer, Clay County Leader
Earl Gwinn, Baylor County Banner
Emmett H. Whitehead, Rusk Cherokeean/Herald

Richard E. "Dick" Dwelle

Richard E. "Dick" Dwelle's 50 years in the newspaper business began in 1946, a month after he was discharged from the U.S. Army.

A community leader and active Presbyterian, Dwelle has always been "the guy everybody comes to when there is a job to be done. Then, without waiting, he turns to the next task," it was written of him in 1979 in The Southlander, a publication of St. Regis Paper Company.

In June 1946, Dwelle moved his wife, Peggy, and daughter, Donna, to Kermit, where he was named c publisher of the Winkler County News. It was there he began his long, successful career.

In January 1949, he moved the family to Athens, having purchased the Athens Daily Review from his father-in-law, Meyer M. Donosky Mr. Donosky previously had served as treasurer and member of the board of director of the A.H. Belo Corp., publisher of the Dallas Morning News, and was instrumental in the establishment of Southland Paper Mills.

Dwelle published the Daily Review from 1949 to 1986, and was joined as co-publisher by his son, Dan, during that span.

He sold the Daily Review to Donrey Media Group in 1986, but went on to serve as a consultant to Donrey from 1986 to 1994. Since 1994, Dwelle has been an editorial writer for the Daily Review.

A few of his many accomplishments include the bachelor of arts degree he earned in 1943 from Rice University; his being named All-Southwest Conference tailback in 1942; his World War II military service with the 83rd and 42nd Infantry Divisions in Europe, in which he attained the rank of captain; and his being named Athens Citizen of the Year in 1971.

Dwelle, a past president of the North and East Texas Press Association, formerly served as a board member of TDNA and TPA. He is a former member of the board of the Athens Literacy Group, and is a past district chairman of the Boy Scouts of America.

He has co-owned many newspapers, in addition to the Daily Review, including: the Marlin Daily Democrat and Marlin Weekly Democrat, 1960-81; Winkler County News, Wink Bulletin, Jal (N.M.) Record and Eunice (N.M.) Press, through 1987; and the Athens Weekly Review, Malakoff News and Cedar Creek Pilot, through 1986.

In addition to their son, Dan, current publisher of the Daily Review and division manager of Donrey Media Group, the Dwelles have a daughter, Donna Dwelle-Marchum of Houston.

In 1980, Dwelle was presented Texas Daily Newspaper Association's Pat Thggart Texas Newspaper Leader of the Year Award.

back to top

Paul I. Griffith Jr.

Paul I. Griffith Jr. was in the newspaper business at the Cleburne Times-Review for more than 50 years until his retirement this year, climbing from sales manager to publisher.

At an early age, Griffith showed a talent for music and graduated from the Harris School of Music, playing trumpet in his high school band. He played trumpet for four years while attending Southern Methodist University.

He met Margaret Spruce at SMU and they married in 1941. After war was declared on Japan, he entered military service spending one year in Guadacanal, where the first South Pacific battle was fought. He wound up in a military hospital in Longview, Texas with jungle rot.

After the war, Griffith came back to Dallas without a job. His uncle, William Rawland, owner of the Times-Review, asked him to come to work for him.

Griffith was hired as advertising manager in 1945. He recalls selling advertising for 35-cents a column inch. He also got to write a weekly hunting and fishing column.

The Times-Review was sold by Rawland in 1976 to the Donrey Media Group, which owns 53 newspapers across the United States.

Rawland, though no longer the owner of the paper, still comes to the office each day as he has for the past 62 years. He says Griffith was an excellent advertising manager. "He was strong on public relations and a very good newspaperman. I was pleased when he was promoted to publisher."

Bill Rice, current general manager of the Tunes-Review, sees Paul Griffith Jr. as his mentor. "I learned a great deal from this man," he said. "Whatever I might say about him could never be enough."

 Once an avid golfer, Griffith's favorite assignment was covering the Colonial Invitational Golf Tournament in Fort Worth, which he covered for 49 years. "I've had four heart surgeries since July, but I still wish I could cover the Colonial this year," he said.

Married for 55 years, the Griffiths have three children: Paul I. Griffith III, of Whitney; Peggy Griffith Rawls, of near San Francisco; and Spruce Griffith of Cleburne. They have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

"Before I started work here at the newspaper, I had an interview with the Dallas Morning News. They told me to work awhile at a smaller paper and then come back and see them. I never did. This is what I wanted. I stayed for 50 years," Griffin concluded.

back to top

Vernon Greer

Vernon Greer has not only been in the newspaper business for 50 years, he's been at the same newspaper  -- The Clay County Leader. Greer was born in 1932, the same year the Leader began publication.

Soon after his family moved from Fort Worth to Henrietta in the summer of 1945, Greer, then 12, showed up at the Leader office where he began hanging around and cleaning up. Soon he was running errands for D.H. "Uncle Dave" Germany, who was running the paper for the owner, T.B. O'Bryan Sr., who was ill and died soon after.

Greer wasn't on the payroll at first, but when he was sent to pick up sandwiches, they included one for him.

He eventually graduated to putting the hand-set type back in its cases, and was paid $4.50 a week, working after school.

Tom O'Bryan Jr., who worked in the production department of the Wichita Falls Times and Record News, helped his mother run the paper until it could be sold to Jerry Sitton in 1946.

In 1948, the Leader was sold to Jack Wettengal and Ross Strader. Wettengal subsequently bought out Strader in 1950. The rival Henrietta Independent, which had been purchased by the Leader in 1945, was published simultaneously for a period, and finally consolidated into one newspaper during Greer's tenure. That was where he first learned to run a Linotype while helping to put out the Independent, which was an eight-page paper with four pages preprinted. Wettengal ceased publishing the Independent soon after acquiring the papers.

Greer served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955, during which time the Leader moved from the east side of the courthouse square to its present home on the north side.

It was also during the mid-1950s that the Leader acquired a Heidelberg press that Greer still operates today.

Greer got another new boss in 1961 when Bill and JoAnn Glassford of Morton made Wettengal an offer he couldn't refuse.

By then Greer was proficient on the Linotype machines that set the hot type for the Leader, and running the Babcock letter press and folder in the back shop.

The Leader switched to cold type, shutting down the Babcock in 1975 and taking the pages to Wichita Falls 20 miles away for printing on an offset press.

Like most small papers, the Leader went through the photo typesetting days, then switched to desk top computer publishing in 1987. Greer kept abreast of the changes every step of the way.

He began another longtime association in 1980 when Lewis Simmons s hired as editor, and Glassford scaled back his role in the paper, retaining the publisher's title.

Glassford sold the paper to Phil and Lesa Major in 1995. Glassford retired after 49 years in the newspaper business.

Greer was honored with a reception in September 1995 for his 50 years' service to the Leader. Along with the Glassfords, Jack and Wynona Wettengal and ibm O'Bryan Jr. attended.

 Today Greer still sets the ads and job work on a Macintosh, but you'll occasionally find him setting a hot type job on the Linotype, still in perfect working order. He prints job work on the Heidelberg, also utilizing the Leader's extensive collection of hand-set type, and farms out other offset jobs. He still handles page paste-up, a much simpler task since the Leader went to pagination and photo scanning earlier this year.

Greer is in charge of the weekly mailing on Wednesday, and is Mr. Find and Mr. Fix It around the office.

He is also a devoted husband, making the thrice daily trip to feed his wife, Frankie, at a local nursing home. That's why he can't be here today to accept this honor.

Frankie, whom Greer married 13 years ago, is a former Linotype operator at the Leader, where she worked for 20 years beginning in the mid-1950s.

back to top

Earl Gwinn

On April 1, 1946, Earl Gwinn went to work at the Baylor County Banner in Seymour and has been with the Banner Publishing Company ever since.

He was born in Seymour in 1922, but was raised in Phoenix, Ariz., where he received his first newspaper experience as a carrier for the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette.

Following graduation from school, he entered the U.S. Navy in February 1943, served in the South Pacific, and was honorably discharged in February 1946. Hope for a career in the newspaper business came while Gwinn was in the Navy. His brother, Kloyce, and his friend, Doyce Mouse, co-owned and operated the Firestone store in Seymour.

"Kloyce kept writing me to come back to Seymour, as I could go to work at the Banner Publishing Company. Hankering to see where I was born, I returned to Seymour and went to work at the newspaper," Gwinn said.

When Gwinn joined the newspaper, 0. C. Harrison and Gene Carter were co-owners with Harrison serving as editor. After a few years, Harrison bought out Carter's 49.5 percent of the stock in the company and sold Carter's shares to Gwinn and Bill Unsell.

Harrison died in 1967 and Unsell and Gwinn purchased Harrison's interest and Gwinn became editor. In 1979, Unsell died. Gwinn purchased his stock and became sole owner of the company.

He's been a strong supporter of his community for decades. He is proud of his 36 years of perfect attendance at his Lions Club. He is a past president of the Seymour Chamber of Commerce, and in 1986, the chamber named him outstanding citizen of the year. Last July, he put out a special edition celebrating The Banner's 100th birthday. Gwinn said he is looking forward to the 100th Annual Old Settlers Reunion and Rodeo, July 11-13, in Seymour.

Today, Gwinn continues to work hard in the newspaper business, as he has for 50 years, even though hampered with arthritis that's made him live with artificial hips and an artificial knee.

back to top

Ed Haby

Ed Haby, manager of Hornby Press, celebrated his 50th year in the newspaper business in March. The presses he knows so well are in the back of the Uwlde Leader-News building.

After he served four years in the U.S. Army, Haby came home to Uvalde in 1946. He learned commercial printing at Hornby press, under the G.I. Bill. Haby's brother, James, was the printer. At the time, H.P. Hornby Sr. was in the process of turning over the newspaper and printing company to his son and daughter-in-law, Harry and Kathryn Hornby.

In 1955, Haby learned to use a camera and took on added duties as a photographer and darkroom worker for the Leader-News. He has taken many memorable photos over the years, including one of Ronald Reagan, when he spoke to the Uvalde Chamber of Commerce before he was elected president. He also shot 8mm movies of John Nance Garner's 90th birthday celebration and of the former vice president's funeral.

In 1957, Hornby press purchased a new offset press; it was the only new machine Haby has had to learn to operate.

Haby has taught the printing trade to many apprentices, instructing them on how to run offset presses and bind books. And though the Haby brothers only worked with the commercial printing done by Hornby Press, they usually were on hand on press night at the Leader-News. Ed Haby sometimes helped with folding newspapers and preparing them for delivery. For many years, he delivered newspapers around Uvalde, beginning at 5 a.m. and getting through in time to get to work at Hornby Press at 8 a.m.

Today, Haby is the manager and only employee of Hornby Press and his services are indispensable, says Leader-News publisher Craig Garnett. "In recent years, Ed's talked more about retiring altogether, but we simply refuse to let him go. In addition to being a talented printer, he is a delightful man in all regards. He's hardworking, dependable and the epitome of integrity."

back to top


Emmett H. Whitehead

In November 1945, Emmett Whitehead returned from military service and stepped into the shoes of his father, Emmett H. Whitehead Sr., who had died the February before, as publisher of the Polk County Enterprise in Livingston.

Whitehead, working with his mother, Tommie Lee Whitehead, and sister, Alice Elizabeth Whitehead, assembled the newspaper and used a hot-type press in the basement of the Polk County court house, just as its previous owner, L.R. Wade had done. The Whiteheads supplemented their income with a commercial printing business and went on to purchase the Corrigan Tunes.

In 1948, Whitehead married Marie Hall of Huntsville, and the young couple moved to Rusk when they purchased "Texas' oldest continuously operated weekly," The Rusk Cherokeean, in June 1950. Whitehead, then 24, enjoyed the distinction of being "the youngest publisher of the state's oldest weekly."

In 1952, he purchased The Citizen, a Cushing weekly that he merged with The Cherokeean after publishing it for two years. In 1955, he acquired a radio station serving the Rusk area. He sold the Polk County Enterprise before purchasing the Jacksonville Journal in February 1959 and invested in a web press, replacing the Babcock with a Duplex. He operated the Journal for three years before selling it to his editor, E.B. Jolley, who sold it a few days later to the owners of the Jacksonville Daily Progress.

Whitehead then became a partner in a community antenna television system and in 1964 bought out his partners. In 1966, he converted his publications to offset.

In 1973, he was in his sixth year as mayor of Rusk when he s elected as a state representative. He served eight years in the Texas House.

Whitehead purchased The Alto Herald in August 1978 and the Wells News 'n Views in January 1979. He established radio station KWRW-FM in 1980. In 1988, he sold his cable company. In 1989, he merged the Alto Herald with The Cherokeean and converted to desktop publishing.

Today, he and Marie remain active in the management of their weekly newspapers and radio stations and the farm they purchased in 1964. And, Whitehead's life of public service remains in full swing: last year, he once again was elected mayor of Rusk.

Golden 50 — 1997

1997 Recipients

118th Summer Convention, Friday, June 27, 1997, Radisson Airport, Amarillo

Sammie Franklin, Pleasanton Express
Antonio Herrera Mendoza, Hondo Anvil Herald
Wendell Tooley, Tulia Herald, Floyd County Hesperian

Sammie Franklin

Over the last 50 years, owners and editors have come and gone at the Pleasanton Express. Computers have replaced typewriters and hot-lead composition has given way to cold type and offset printing.

And one outstanding staffer has been there for it all: Sammie Franklin.

Franklin, 70, joined the Express in 1947, five years after contracting polio and losing full use of her legs and leaving her with limited use of her hands. Though she uses a wheelchair, she has refused to acknowledge barriers in pursuit of a story - or in life.

Her first job was as Poteet correspondent. "At that time, the paper was so rural you wouldn't believe it," Franklin recalled. "Nothing was too small - new babies, weddings, and of course, obituaries, where the Joneses went for vacation and who spoke at the Rotary Club."

Through the years, she has become especially well known and appreciated for her detailed wedding stories. "When you read her wedding story, you know you're married," said Bill Wilkerson, publisher of the Express since 1975.

"A small newspaper does a lot more than a big city newspaper for a couple getting married," Franklin explained. "People involved are your friends and neighbors, and they want something more than just their names in the paper.

"I often think they'll stay together and on their 50th anniversary they'll read this and their grandchildren will read it."

Franklin combs South Texas for stories of rural life and times, and though she moved to Midland in March 1996, she continues to write stories for the Express.

Express editor Jerry Black said he can't remember the last time anything but a computer problem kept Franklin from making a deadline.

Franklin said she will keep writing "as long as I can type, I guess" which means using two pencils with new erasers "for good traction" to tap out her stories on her computer keyboard.

"I have no plans to retire. What else would I do?" she asked.

"I'm like an old fire horse. When the fire bell rings, they go beserk. And I cannot let a telephone go unanswered. It might be the next big story."

back to top

Antonio Herrera Mendoza

Antonio Herrera Mendoza began working at The Hondo Anvil Herald on Sept. 16, 1946, about four months after Jerry and Bill Berger purchased the publication. Except for his military service in Europe during the Korean War (while his younger brother Alex was serving in Korea), his entire career has been with The Anvil Herald.

Everyone knows him as Tony, and he has attended many press conventions, especially South Texas Press Association meetings.

Tony has two sons, Ted Anthony Mendoza, who is the father of his grandson Jacob Anthony, 3, and Michael A. Mendoza, who fathered his granddaughters, Mercedes, 9, and Olivia, six months old.

Tony's first job was cleaning and sorting leads and slugs, and throwing in hand set type. All headlines and most of the ads were composed with handset type when he started. He also remelted the metal and cast the Linotype pigs. He soon graduated to running the Linotype, feeding presses and helping with all facets of the old hot metal newspaper operation.

He learned every phase of job printing, and ran platen presses ranging from 9 x 12 size up to the Miehie Vertical. When new technology came along, he learned maintenance of the Compugraphics. He also took and developed pictures sold advertising.

Early one morning, at 4:35 to be exact, he learned about Linotype squirts the hard way. Molten metal went all the way to the ceiling, and some of it landed on his head, leaving him with a small bald spot, which remains to this day an unwanted souvenir.

Tony has taught the printing trade to many apprentices, everything from the Linotype to bookbinding. He now operates a small offset press along with some of the old presses, and even pitched in during the difficult days of starting up the web offset plant located in Hondo and jointly owned by the Pleasanton Express and the Uvalde Leader-News. The plant now produces up to 17 publications.

Tony can explain type lice, and the bones once used for hand folding the newspapers. He has also found time to serve for several years in the Air Force Reserves with the 433rd wing at Kelly Field. He has been commander of his American Legion post, and is a long-time member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Hondo.

His current duties include supervision of the printing department and circulation department of The Anvil Herald.

He recalls helping Jerry Berger run the old newspaper folding machine, which required two feeders whenever there were more than eight pages in the section.

Tony's newspaper experience runs from the old hot metal days to today's pasted up pages - and he says the new way is a lot easier on his back. All those night sessions making up pages and feeding the press are a thing of the past, but late hours are still part of his routine because of his circulation duties every Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

back to top

Wendell Tooley

Although Wendell Tooley received more than 50 press association awards while editor and publisher of The Floyd County Hesperian and The Tulia Herald, his greatest contribution to journalism and newspapers was probably the establishment of three offset printing plants.

Blanco Offset at Floydada, Brazos Offset at Slaton and Palo Duro Offset at Canyon, print over 55 newspapers and publications per week.

Tooley was also a stockholder in the second offset printing plant in the Panhandle of Texas, Southwest Offset in Hereford. His partners were Jimmy Gillentine, Sam Williams, Bill Turner and Troy Martin.

Tooley's greatest honor was his selection by his peers into the Panhandle Press Association's Hall of Fame in Amarillo.

He owned all or part of several weekly newspapers at Littlefield, Floydada, Lockney, Crosbyton, Olton, Slaton, Tahoka and Canyon.

He wrote a weekly column "Caprock Chat" every week at The Hesperian and "Country Editor" at the Tulia Herald.

He usually wrote an editorial also. His most controversial and successful editorial campaigns caused the school board in Floydada to fully integrate the school system and helped to prevent the Department of Energy from digging a nuclear waste repository in Swisher County.

Upon graduation from Kress High School in 1944, Tooley's newspaper career began with a job at The Plainview Daily Herald sweeping the floor and delivering office supplies.

He then attended McMurry University for a year before being drafted into the U.S. Army where he served in the 38th Regimental ski and mountain troops.

When released from service he completed his bachelor of science in journalism at McMurry in 1949. He worked nightside at the Abilene Reporter News while at McMurry.

After McMurry, he and his wife, Mary Tom, spent a year in Missouri where he received his master's degree in advertising from the University of Missouri. He worked part time for Brown's Advertising Agency while in Missouri.

In 1950 he was back at The Plainview Daily Herald in the display advertising department.

In 1955 and 1956 he was professor of advertising art Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash.

He returned to the Daily Herald as advertising manager.

In 1958 the Tooleys moved to Littlefield when newspaper publisher Sam Williams offered him a chance to buy stock in the Littlefield newspapers. He was a partner with Bill Turner and Williams until 1963, when he sold his stock to Dick Reavis.

The Tooleys moved to Floydada when they purchased The Floyd County Hesperian from Syl McBeath, picking up McBeath's note to longtime Floydada publisher Homer Steen.

While at Floydada he and Speedy Nieman bought the Slaton Slatonite. Tooley also bought the Tahoka newspaper from Frank Hill and the Crosbyton newspaper from Hubert Curry. He later traded Crosbyton to Jim Reynolds and converted Floydada and Lockney into a twice-weekly.

In 1979 he sold The Hesperian to the Bluebonnet group and bought the Tulia Herald from H.M. Baggarly. He was editor-publisher of the Tulia Herald until 1992 when Reynolds became editor and co-publisher. Then Tooley taught a semester of journalism at West Texas A&M University in Canyon.

Reynolds published The Herald until Tooley sold it to Chris Russett in 1994.

Tooley remains president of the three printing plants and a partner in the Canyon News. He sold the Slatonite to Jim Davis in 1996.

He was president of the Panhandle Press Association; served on the Texas Press Association and West Texas Press Association boards. He has served on the United Methodist Reporter board in Dallas for over 20 years and the McMurry University board for over 20 years. He was on the Texas Tech Mass Communications School advisory board for six years.

In closing, Tooley pays tribute to his wife of 48 years, Mary Tom Kirk, a Methodist minister's daughter he found at McMurry. She has worked for the Tooley newspapers, taught school and is a fantastic homemaker.

Tooley adds, "I'm also extremely proud of our children." Brad is editor-publisher of the Canyon News; Keith, editor publisher of North Lake Travis Log; Karla and Chuck Hutchison, publishers of the Thrifty Nickel in Abilene; and Wendy and Kent Bridenstine, stockholders and manager of Palo Duro Offset in Canyon.

Wendell and Mary Tom sang in the Methodist choir 38 years, and he has held about every office in the church. He is a past president of Rotary, Kiwanis and chamber of commerce.

The couple has traveled to over 20 foreign countries, now seeing the U.S. in an RV. They have seen it all except two states. Mary Tom is an accomplished artist. Wendell plays tennis, golf, fishes and plays guitar. They sing gospel at church and RV camps.

Oh yes The Tooleys have seven grandchildren!

back to top

Golden 50 — 1998

1998 Recipients

119th Summer Convention, Friday, June 26, 1998, Adam's Mark Hotel, San Antonio

Berneta Peeples, The Belton Journal
J.A. Gilbreath, Sanderson Times
Bob Hamilton, Iowa Park Leader
O.G. "Speedy" Nieman, Hereford Brand

Berneta Peeples

In a small-town weekly newspaper, everyone wears several different "hats." No one at The Belton Journal has worn so many hats for so long as Berneta Peeples. Publishers and editors have come and gone, but she has been a part of the Journal's history for more than half a century.

Peeples, 80, started working at The Journal at age 17 in 1935. She began full-time work in 1937. She has been in service in one capacity or the other for almost every day since that time.

The only pauses in her work at The Journal have been a short-lived retirement and a break to, in her words, "build Camp Hood."

The newspaper office is literally ringed with more than 50 honors and awards Peeples has earned for her service to the newspaper and to the community of Belton. Still more sit on the publisher's desk and in her own home. She once humbly remarked that "something had to go on the walls." Honored by almost every group and organization in Bell County, she was named Belton's Outstanding Citizen in 1980.

When Peeples began her career in the newspaper business, she interviewed Civil War veterans. Now, she is Bell County's unofficial historian. Hardly a week goes by that someone does not come to the newspaper office to ask her about the history of Belton and Bell County.

Peeples' current editor - who was born about 30 years after she started her career - summed up the feelings of the people of Belton toward her:

"As far as the people of Belton are concerned, Berneta Peeples is The Belton Journal."

back to top

J.A. Gilbreath

J.A. Gilbreath completed 50 years as co-editor/publisher of the Sanderson Times in May 1997. He has a lifelong connection with the printing industry.

He was born at Harlingen in 1921.

In 1931, the Gilbreath family moved to Big Lake for Gilbreath's father, L.H. Gilbreath, to work for M.A. "Bronc" Wilson at the Big Lake Wildcat. At age 10, Gilbreath was given the responsibility of melting metal on Saturdays and molding "pigs" of the metal to use in the Linotype machine. Later he was promoted to feeding the Chandler & Price snappers.

He was "exempt" from working in the newspaper when his family moved to Marfa in 1934 for his father to work for Charles Moore at the Big Bend Sentinel.

After the family returned to Wichita Falls in 1936, Gilbreath, then a high school student, went to work in a commercial printing company. He learned to hate working only with hand-set type in composing forms of all kinds.

After graduation from high school in 1938, an uncle who was also a printer at Fort Stockton, told Gilbreath of an opening in Sanderson at a weekly newspaper. He took the job, doing all of the Linotype work, helping to make up ads, stereotyping, making up the paper, running the Babcock two-page press and doing job work. After 18 months at Sanderson, he returned to Wichita Falls when his father's health worsened.

For a short time he worked at the Wichita Post, a short-lived daily, and later went to work at the Wichita Daily Times and Record-News as a "galley boy." This job didn't last long, as his duties were restricted by Typographical Union laws. He felt he was spinning his wheels doing galley-boy chores when he was capable of operating the Linotype machine and performing higher-skill duties.

In 1940, he went to work at a commercial printing plant in Wichita Falls. He was responsible for every phase of composition of jobs of all types and sizes, but no press work. He worked there until he was drafted in 1943.

He married Zeona Allbritton on Oct. 19, 1941, in Wichita Falls. When drafted, he left his wife and a six-month-old daughter at home. His duties took him to England, France and Germany, where he served at U.S. Army Air Force Headquarters in Wiesbaden as a sergeant in the V.I.P. bureau. He returned home in November 1945 after 19 months overseas.

After he was discharged in January 1946, Gilbreath went to Vernon and worked for his wife's uncle. After about a year, he heard the Sanderson Times was for sale. With his wife, daughter and parents, he moved to Sanderson to take over publication of this newspaper.

His father's ability to handle the physical requirements of publishing the paper was limited, so the brunt of the work was Gilbreath's to do. His mother took on the bookkeeping chores, gathered personals and society news until about six months prior to her death at age 92. His father died in 1975.

Gilbreath's wife helped on press days, feeding the two-page Babcock and helping fold papers until they acquired a folder.

During his life in Sanderson, Gilbreath served on the volunteer fire department for several years and was in the emergency medical service for 14 years, serving as director and instructor. He also served as justice of the peace and coroner, holding that post when the flood of 1965 took 27 lives.

"Putting out a paper and working during that time in duties related to the J.P. office and cleanup work in the town was really taxing," Gilbreath said. "But we survived."

"My wife has mentioned at times her desire that I should retire and do something that I would like to-do, I tried to assure her and anyone else that I love what I am doing. I heard it said once that if you like what you are doing you never work a day in your life. I agree, wholeheartedly. -

"I consider myself fortunate that I have experienced several generations of the printing industry - hand-setting type, Linotypes and Intertypes, Compugraphic typesetters, and now computers. It was unrealistic for a man my age to try to learn computers and their extensions for the publishing industry, but it may be that this learning experience or my desire to learn it has made it possible for me to stay active in' the industry."

The Gilbreaths' daughter and her oldest son and his wife and child live in Sanderson. Another granddaughter lives in Fort Worth and has a nine-year-old son. The youngest son graduated from U.S. Military Academy at West Point in May and is now stationed in Fort Hood as a 2nd lieutenant.

back to top

Bob Hamilton

Though Bob Hamilton's first experience with newspapers was selling them in businesses when they came off the press of the Hereford Brand during World War II, his first actual newspaper salary was when he was hired in 1948 to do various jobs, as a printer's devil in the afternoons and preschool janitorial cleaning.

His first writing experience was the same year, when he began covering Hereford High School sports; and soon afterward, he was recruited to string for the Amarillo News and Globe-Times.

Hamilton dropped out of school in January 1950 to join the Air Force. A year later, he was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, in Anchorage, Alaska. There he became involved in the sport of skiing, and began writing a ski column for the base paper, the Sourdough Sentinel.

Following his discharge from the service, he enrolled at Amarillo Junior College under the GI Bill. "I was associated with a lot of college students who went into the military during the Korean War, and it was obvious that their education was a major reason they were getting promotions and I wasn't. So I knew there must be an advantage from education," he said. So be majored in journalism, and worked part time for the Amarillo paper, covering college sports.

Hamilton's involvement in barbershop quartet singing led to his first full-time newspaper job. The co-publishers of the Moore County News, Gene Alford and Howard Jacob, were members of a newly formed chapter at Dumas, and were visiting with the Amarillo group. The three became acquainted, and Hamilton was offered a job upon his graduation in 1956.

Hamilton's tenure in the business almost ended less than 60 days later, and 30 days after his marriage to Dolores, when he covered a tank farm explosion at the Shamrock McKee Refinery. Eighteen firemen were killed, all in ai area where Hamilton had been taking pictures until he ran out of film and returned to the road to reload.

At Alford's suggestion, Hamilton telephoned the Associated Press from the hospital busines office, while waiting for assignment to a bed, with his story. He was later nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Upon release from the hospital a week later, he took pictures and did brief follow-up stories on all the survivors of the explosion for a double truck report in the Moore County News. That effort led to his being named the first non-daily recipient of the Anson Jones Award for medical coverage.

Hamilton accepted a job offer in early 1958 with, the Hereford Brand, Jimmy Gillentine, publisher, stayed six months and was then hired at the Olton Enterprise by Troy Martin, and half a year later he was hired by Gordon Greaves with the Portales (N.M.) Tribune.

Then, in the late spring of 1959, W.H: "Sonny" Graham of Farwell approached him with a proposition to join him and Dolph Moten, of Bovina, in starting a nine-county weekly at Plainview, concentrating on irrigation farming.

The opportunity developed because Graham and Moten had installed a new printing system, web offset - and that operation at Friona was the first web offset central printing plant in Texas.

So Hamilton became the publisher of The Plains Farmer and headquartered in Plainview because he needed no metal printing equipment. The only drawback was that Friona was 89 miles away.

In order to attract customers to the new printing operation, the plant initially had all the equipment and personnel to produce a newspaper. Customers took their copy, layout and page dummies there one day, and returned the next day to pick up their newspapers.

About a year later, during which time Hamilton agreed to purchase his partners' share in the Farmer, the composition department had more newspapers than it could handle, so the plant's customers had to purchase their own equipment. Due to a lack of funds, Bob and Dolores were able to only acquire a paste-up table, headliner and an IBM Executive electric typewriter, to round out their meager needs.

Because unjustified copy just wasn't acceptable in those days, the Hamiltons had to double-type all stories: counting the number of spaces lacking in one column to justify it; tabulating to a second column and spacing out the words to give the column what they called "semi-justification."

The Hamiltons closed out a downtown office they had been using, moving everything into their home. Shortly afterward, they added to their workload by accepting an offered gift, another newspaper, the Kress News.

So, through May 1967, the Hamiltons produced two tabloid newspapers weekly out of their home. They continued to have the papers printed in Friona until 1966, when the Friona operation was closed, and then switched over to a recently opened central plant, Plains Publishers, at Hereford.

A combination of crop failures and other factors forced the Hamiltons to cease publication of the Farmer. Hamilton then sought employment from an old nearby friend, Bill Turner, who had recently acquired with a partner the Lamb County Leader in Littlefield.

Mrs. Hamilton assumed the publisher responsibilities of the Kress publication for about a year. She set the type, pasted it up, took it to Hereford for printing and then to the post office at Kress for almost a year, before closing down that operation. Her five children at home, and not having the help of Bob who had all he could handle with his job, were more than she could sustain.

In midsummer of 1969, Hamilton was approached by Carol Koch and Ed Eakin from Quanah with an opportunity to join in a partnership for another newspaper at Iowa Park Koch and Eakin had established Nortex Printing, another central printing plant in Wichita Falls.

Hamilton visited Iowa Park in an effort to determine the prospects. If he accepted the offer, he would be going into competition with a long-established weekly, the Iowa Park Herald. Leaders of the business community were encouraging, primarily because the Herald was a long-standing four-page letterpress publication, with columns one and two on the front page devoted to the classifieds.

Encouraged by the attitude of the town's business and political leaders, and the prospect of getting back into ownership of a newspaper, the Hamiltons accepted the offer, and the Iowa Park Leader's initial publication became a reality on Sept. 17, 1969.

So, 10 years apart, Hamilton had established his second weekly newspaper from scratch.

During the three-month waiting period for their second class mailing permit, the Hamilton family loaded up in their station wagon each Wednesday night and threw the Leader in every yard of Iowa Park. Each edition solicited subscription sales, which were good for one year after the permit was approved the following November.

Some five years later, the Hamiltons purchased full ownership of the newspaper from Koch and Akin. -

During the following years, Hamilton served as president of Texas Press Association, West Texas Press Association, North and East Texas Press Association, and as a member of the Texas Newspaper Foundation board. He also served as president of the Iowa Park Chamber of Commerce, twice as president of the Iowa Park Lions Club, and has been a member of the Iowa Park Mule Skinners, a men's cooking organization, more than 20 years.

Special recognitions received by Hamilton include: Special Recognition Award twice from the Texas Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association; Sam C. Holloway Memorial Award and Tom Mooney Award from the North and East Texas Press Association; and Outstanding Citizen of the Year from the Iowa Park Chamber of Commerce.

Hamilton was forced to cut back on his hours of work at the paper, having experienced a stroke on March 10, 1995. That was on a Thursday morning, of course, because he doesn't allow anything to interfere with Wednesday press days.

Four of the Hamilton children, Kevin, Kim, Kay and Kari have worked on the newspaper. Kari continues as the publication's advertising director, and Kay works part time, mailing the paper each Wednesday night. Dolores, of course, is co-publisher of the Leader.

back to top

O.G. "Speedy" Nieman

Speedy Nieman says a high school English teacher, who-also served as sponsor of the school newspaper and yearbook, encouraged him to pursue a career in journalism.

As a sophomore at Lamesa High School, Nieman joined the staff of the Tornado Times, later serving as editor of the paper and coeditor of the yearbook.

Upon graduation from high school, he was offered an appointment to West Point by U.S. Rep. George Mahon. He passed up that opportunity, however, to accept a football scholarship to Midwestern College in Wichita Falls. After just one semester, Nieman transferred to Texas Tech College and began his pursuit of a journalism degree.

His college days were interrupted when he joined the U.S. Coast Guard during the Korean Conflict in 1948. He served three years in the Coast Guard and then returned to his hometown. He married Lavon Stewart of Hamlin, then started work as a sports editor for the Lamesa Daily Reporter. After one year, the editor, left and Nieman moved into that position.

Nieman decided to finish his college degree and returned to Texas Tech in 1953. He worked as editor of the Tech Ex-Student Publications while earning his degree, then took a sports job at the San Angelo Standard-Times after graduation in 1954. Nieman decided to go into private business in 1955, buying an ice house and dairy products film in Andrews. The newspaper ink was still in his blood, however, and Editor James Roberts talked him into being a part-time sports reporter for the Andrews County News. After a year, he sold the business and worked full time at the Andrews paper for a year.

Nieman moved back to Lamesa as editor of that paper in 1958. The Woodson chain, which owned the Lamesa paper, transferred him to Brownfield in 1962. Dick Reavis, publisher of the Lamb County Leader in Littlefield, recruited Nieman to be the editor of the Littlefield paper in 1963. Nieman credits Reavis for encouraging him to start looking for a paper of his own. The Littlefield paper sold after Nieman had been there a year, and he accepted a job as special assiginments editor at the Midland Reporter-Telegram. After just a few months, Nieman was contacted by Wendell Tooley of Floydada, and they purchased The Slatonite. Nieman served as publisher-editor and part owner of that paper for seven and a half years. He and Tooley, joined by two other publishers, also started Blanco Offset Printing in Floydada.

His old friend James Roberts called him in late 1971 and asked him to join him and several other West Texas publishers in purchasing the Hereford Brand. The group also bought a central offset printing plant in Hereford, North Plains Printing. Nieman later became a stockholder in several other newspapers in the Roberts chain. Nieman has announced plans to retire June 30, 1998, after slightly more than 50 years in the newspaper business in Texas.

Speedy and Lavon have two sons, Steve and Craig. Steve, of Lubbock, is a co-owner of Incode, a software management company for city governments in three states. He and his wife, Rhonda, have two children: Ross, 13, and Stephanie, 9. Craig is the course superintendent of Pitman Municipal Golf Course in Hereford.

Nieman's community service: Slaton (1964-71): president, Chamber of Commere; president, Lions Club; cabinet, Lions District 2T2 (1967-69); president, Little League; president, Slaton Tiger Booster Club; membet'of advisory board, Our Lady of Mercy Hospital; named Slaton's Man of Year in 1970. Hereford: president, Lions Club; president, Chamber of Commerce; chairman, United Way campaign; director, YMCA; member and past chairman, Hereford Hustlers; Chamber Bull Chip award (1976); Citizen of the Year (1989). Professional: President, West Texas Press Association (1969-70); president, Panhandle Press Association (1975-76); president, Texas Press Association (1982); director, Texas Newspaper Foundation; Texas Tech University Outstanding Alumnus Mass Communications Award (1993); Harold Hudson Memorial Award, West Texas Press Association (1994); inductee, Panhandle Press Association Hall of Fame (1996).