Sunday, June 17, 2001
To commemorate the 120th birthday
today of the Abilene Reporter-News, we present 120 brief
sketches, anecdotes, quotes and facts from the newspaper's history,
so closely intertwined with the history of Abilene itself.
1. Oldest business
The Abilene Reporter-News
is the city's oldest business institution, founded just three
months after the town itself.
"Through the years the Abilene
Reporter-News has had as its policy the building up of Abilene
and its trade area. It has ever served as investigator, critic,
guide. It has helped to establish the moral tone of the town,
as well as to stimulate its material growth.
"To know the story of the
development of Abilene and its trade area is to know the history
of the Abilene Reporter-News. The two are inseparable,
for almost they are twins; and the one has been dependent on
- Naomi H. Kincaid in her master's
thesis at Hardin-Simmons University in 1945.
3. Father of the paper
In 1881, 25-year-old Charles
Edwin Gilbert came to Abilene from Navasota, where he had already
been publishing a newspaper for nearly five years. He bought
the printing equipment from a short-lived publication in Buffalo
Gap, The Texas Eagle, and moved it to Abilene.
4. Published in a tent
On June 17, 1881, Gilbert published
the first edition of the Abilene Reporter from a tent
at South First and Oak.
The newspaper was only two months
old and had just moved into its new building when fire destroyed
all the buildings on the block between Oak and Chestnut on South
Gilbert, suffering from typhoid
fever, got out of bed and published a single sheet extra edition
from the shop of the Baird newspaper on Aug. 27, 1881.
"Great Fire in Abilene,"
the headline read. "One Fourth of the the Town Lain in Ashes
- Loss Over $20,000!"
6. Rising from the ashes
In his extra edition about the
disastrous fire, C. E. Gilbert wrote of his own loss:
"All that constituted the
paraphernal appertunances of the Abilene Reporter office
on yesterday, is today a heap of smouldering ashes, twisted irons
and masses of melted type metal. But tomorrow she will, Phoenix-like,
rise from the ashes, clad in bright, new garments, and resume
her career of usefulness."
7. Wall paper
Early-day Abilenians found a
practical use for the Reporter. Besides reading it, they
papered their walls with it.
"This way," wrote Katharyn
Duff in Catclaw Country, "children could learn to read from
the wall while the paper served as insulation from the summer
dust and winter wind which seeped into the hastily constructed
8. Why not call it Anson?
C. E. Gilbert claimed credit
for naming the town of Anson. He suggested in an editorial that
the county seat of Jones County also be named for Anson Jones,
the former president of the Republic of Texas. And it was.
9. Moving the county seat
One of the first controversies
involving the Reporter was moving the county seat of Taylor
County from Buffalo Gap to Abilene. C. E. Gilbert, of course,
supported the move. In a bitter and divisive election, Abilene
won the necessary two-thirds vote of the county residents.
10. Barbed wire
Gilbert took the side of settlers
and farmers in the explosive issue of free grass vs. barbed wire,
believing that the future growth of the area depended on bringing
in residents to settle here. His stand cost him the support of
the open range cattlemen, and his newspaper lost money for 18
months in a row.
11. The first fair
C. E. Gilbert and the Reporter
organized Abilene's first fair in 1884 to show off produce being
raised in this area.
12. Unfriendly competitor
William L. Gibbs, a part-time
preacher, founded the Magnetic Quill in 1882. He opposed
Gilbert on nearly every issue. Gilbert favored the settlers,
Gibbs the open range cowmen. Gilbert favored incorporating the
town, Gibbs opposed it. Gilbert was against labor unions, Gibbs
was for them. Gibbs suggested that some of the produce for Gilbert's
heralded fair had been grown elsewhere and secretly shipped in.
The competition was bitter, personal and costly.
13. Friendly competitor
Faced with financial losses,
in 1885 Gilbert turned the Reporter from a weekly into
a daily. And he encouraged one of his employees, J. A. Lowry,
to start a third newspaper, the Taylor County News, to
dilute the opposition. Many years later the Reporter would
buy out the News, forming what eventually would become the Reporter-News.
14. Shots fired
The bitterness between C. E.
Gilbert and William L. Gibbs finally led to a showdown - a duel
on the street in front of First National Bank on April 21, 1885.
Five shots were fired in all, but no one was seriously hurt.
The Taylor County News
headlined its account of the duel: "San Jacinto's Day Celebrated
by a Shooting Match - An Editorial Encounter In Which They Try
to Prove That The Sword Is Mightier Than The Pen."
Gibbs shut down the Magnetic
Quill in September 1885. Gilbert stayed in town a while longer,
but after the duel resigned as Sunday School superintendent of
First Methodist Church, where he was a founding member.
15. Gone to Dallas
C. E. Gilbert sold the Reporter
in May 1886 and moved to Dallas where he published the Dallas
Herald, which later became the Dallas Times Herald.
He would go from there to publish newspapers in Nacogdoches,
Austin and Bay City. He organized and headed the Texas Afternoon
Press Association and the Southern Afternoon Press Association.
16. Wished he had stayed
"There are fond recollections
of Abilene. While I had some ups and downs during my five years
there, I always loved the town and the people. Of course, when
I left for Dallas it was only the ambition of youth to try a
larger field... I have often wished that it had been my fortune
to remain in Abilene."
- C. E. Gilbert in an interview
for the Reporter's 50th anniversary edition in 1931.
Dr. Alf H. H. Toler, publisher
of the Colorado (City) Clipper, bought the Reporter in
1886 in the midst of a drought. The drought (or drouth as it
was spelled then) was so bad, the rival Taylor County News
reported, that "a prominent prohibitionist has ordered a
case of beer from Decatur
as evidence that he wants a lather
to shave with."
Toler ran the struggling paper
for two years before John Hoeny Jr. from Weatherford took it
18. Flowery prose
"The Abilene country is
the land of flowers, and the city of Abilene the home of refined
ladies, who cultivate roses of the most dainty tints and delicious
- Abilene Reporter, May
19. Other papers
The Abilene Reporter and
the Taylor County News weren't the only papers on the scene in
Abilene's early days. Besides the Magnetic Quill, other
newspapers included the Evening Lance, the Daily Times,
the Sentinel, the Gossip, and the Evening Mirror.
Most lasted for just a few issues.
20. First classified ads
The Abilene Reporter,
under John Hoeny Jr., was one of the first newspapers in the
country to print classified ads in a column by themselves. Editorially,
Hoeny supported good roads, a high school building, and the development
of Simmons College, which opened in 1891.
21. George Anderson
George S. Anderson joined the
Reporter's staff in 1894, became its manager in 1895 and
principal owner in 1900. He rescued the paper from bankruptcy.
To keep the struggling paper alive, he often would start work
at 7 a.m. and not get through until midnight.
22. Supporter of education
Anderson Hall at Hardin-Simmons
University and Anderson Outpatient Center at Hendrick Medical
Center are named for George S. Anderson. Anderson was board chairman
of both HSU and Hendrick and a leader in First Baptist Church.
He also helped raise the money to bring Abilene Christian and
McMurry here and was involved in many other civic causes. He
died in 1964.
23. Pony express
"Bernard Hanks and his pretty
little pony have undertaken to deliver the Daily Reporter
on the north side. As soon as they learn the route they should
do the job a turn. Should anyone fail to get the paper please
be patient and report the matter to us, though Bernard thinks
he found all the readers this morning. The rain yesterday afternoon
prevented the usual delivery at that time."
- Abilene Reporter, Sept.
24. Bernard Hanks
Bernard Hanks and George Anderson
divided the management duties of the Abilene Reporter
beginning in 1906. Hanks was responsible for business and editorial
operations, Anderson for printing and production. Eventually
they would form two companies, Reporter Publishing under
Hanks, and Abilene Printing and Stationery under Anderson, but
they remained partners in each other's company - and friends.
25. Never a harsh word
George Anderson said that in
their long association, which spanned more than 50 years, he
and Bernard Hanks never had a harsh word or misunderstanding.
"I never knew him to do
a dishonest thing, and he possessed one of the brightest minds
I have ever come in contact with," Anderson said.
"Bernard and I agreed long
ago that the news columns should never be used to punish an enemy
or to reward a friend."
-- George Anderson
27. Newspaper slogan
Bernard Hanks is credited with
selecting the lines from Lord Byron's "Don Juan" to
be the slogan for the Abilene Reporter-News. For more
than 70 years it ran under the masthead on the front page and
continues to be published every day on the editorial page:
"Without or with offense
to friends or foes, we sketch your world exactly as it goes."
28. Fight for the little guy
"Always keep an eye out
for the little fellow," Bernard Hanks was often quoted as
saying. "The big ones can look after themselves, but the
little fellows have nobody but the newspaper to fight for them."
29. Morning edition
Under Bernard Hanks, the newspaper
grew. A Sunday edition was added in 1908. The paper purchased
the Taylor County News in 1911. A morning edition began
on Sept. 1, 1926, as the Abilene Morning News, with the
Reporter continuing as the afternoon paper. The names
were combined in 1937 to become the Abilene Reporter-News,
with morning, afternoon and Sunday editions.
30. North 1st and Cypress
The Reporter moved to
its present location on Cypress Street downtown in 1921. The
current building was built in 1971.
31. Depressing times
During the Great Depression,
Bernard Hanks was credited with keeping the newspaper alive.
One employee said, "Mr. Hanks called us all together in
a meeting and told us he was having to go to the bank every week
to borrow the payroll."
32. Eggs-tra, eggs-tra!
Former Reporter-News circulation
director Frank Pruitt said that during the Depression the newspaper
took chickens, eggs, pecans, cottonseed, and even old batteries
as payment for subscriptions.
33. Friend of LBJ
Bernard Hanks was an early supporter
of Lyndon Johnson. He started Johnson's campaign fund when LBJ
ran for Congress, and Johnson never forgot him. That friendship
would pay huge dividends for Abilene.
34. Camp Barkeley
Bernard Hanks was one of the
Abilene civic leaders to go to Washington in 1940 to try to get
an Army camp for Abilene. With the help of some of Hanks' political
allies, including Lyndon Johnson, Speaker Sam Rayburn and Senator
Tom Connally, Abilene got Camp Barkeley.
35. Army air base
Hanks and Abilene civic leader
Dub Wright took a proposal to Washington in 1942 to get an air
base located in Abilene. They were unable to get any action until
Hanks called on Lyndon Johnson. Abilene got the base.
Bernard Hanks and Houston Harte,
publisher of the San Angelo newspaper, founded what would become
an international communications company, Harte-Hanks Communications,
traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
They began in the mid-1920s by
buying interests in newspapers in Lubbock, Harlingen, Corpus
Christi, and Brownsville. By the 1970s Harte-Hanks owned more
Daily Newspapers than
any other company. It became a publicly traded company in 1972
and continued to own the Reporter-News until 1997.
A key executive in the early
years of Harte-Hanks was Hanks' accountant, Bruce Meador. Meador
eventually became the operating head of the company and held
the title of vice president and general manager.
37. Frank Grimes
Frank Grimes joined the Abilene
Reporter in 1914 and became its first fulltime editor in
1919. He would be editor for the next 42 years.
38. Esteemed editor
"Frank Grimes: Scholar and
esteemed editor, whose common touch, warm humor, sound judgment
and civic devotion have helped shape our community and have endeared
him to West Texas during his 41 years among us."
- Plaque presented by the citizens
of Abilene to Grimes on Frank Grimes Day, April 10, 1956.
39. Not a crusader
Dr. Rupert Richardson, the noted
historian from Abilene and Hardin-Simmons, said Frank Grimes
was the master of the "come let us reason together"
approach to editorial writing. He was not a firebrand crusader,
though he did have his pet causes.
40. Grimes on books
"Books are company. Books
are friendly and companionable. Books are the soul of great men
running back for thousands of years speaking to your soul
"To tell the truth, the
book that influenced me more than any other was the biography
of a horse, Black Beauty, by Mrs. Anna Sewell
was the first book ever given to me and the first one I ever
read on my own power. Black Beauty hooked me, and I have been
a devotee of books ever since."
- Abilene Reporter-News,
Sept. 30, 1956
41. Grimes on editorial writing
"There really isn't anything
to editorial writing; it's just a matter of putting down one
word after another, day after day, week after week, year after
year, decade after decade. We suppose it's habit-forming in some
degree like smoking
"It is much easier to write
a long editorial on a single subject than two very short ones
on two subjects, so we have always felt that long-winded editorials,
like long-winded speeches and sermons, were a sign of laziness."
- Abilene Reporter-News,
Dec. 4, 1949
42. Grimes on Christmas
"Christmas is our finest
day. Although most of us are given to rude display of wealth
(as represented by gifts costlier than we can afford) we get
nearer to genuine unselfishness on this than on any other day."
- Abilene Reporter-News,
Dec. 23, 1943
43. Grimes on women wearing shorts
"Few women look alluring
in shorts or tight britches. By coming practically all the way
out they leave little to the imagination, but they do destroy
the mystery and the promise of illusion, which after all is the
highest development of art."
- Editorial quoted in an Associated
Press article on Frank Grimes in 1956.
44. Grimes on pumpkin pie
Most editors have pet peeves,
and one thing that peeved Frank Grimes was pumpkin pie - or punkin'
pie, as he put it. He loved to hate it, claiming that it had
the taste and consistency of axle grease.
Reporter-News readers often joined in the fun. After
one of his tirades about punkin' pie, a downtown restaurant displayed
the editorial on the pie counter and ran a special on pumpkin
pie. Grimes, in an editorial the next day, had to admit they
sold out of pie.
45. The Old Mesquites Ain't Out
Frank Grimes was a poet as well
as an essayist. His most lasting verse, "The Old Mesquites
Ain't Out," has been memorized by thousands of school kids
and often reprinted at the onset of spring.
We see some signs of returning
The redbird's back and the fie'
The ground's plowed up and the
creeks run clear,
The onions sprout and the rosebud's
And yet they's a point worth
We note that the old mesquites
ain't out! The fancier trees are in
The grass is green and the willows
The colts kick up and the calves
And spring's a-pear-ently come
And yet they's a point worth
thinkin' about -
We note that the old mesquites
ain't out! Well, it may be spring for
all we know -
There ain't no ice and there
ain't no snow,
It looks like spring and it smells
The cal-en-dar says it's plenty
And still they's a point worth
thinkin' about -
We note that the old mesquites
In 1951, Frank Grimes and six
other editors were nominated by the Pulitzer Prize jury for the
Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing. Grimes, according to reports,
was the favorite for the prestigious award but was reportedly
rejected because the decision makers couldn't believe that one
man could produce that much high quality material.
47. Personal experience
"He is a man who can write
about anything and make it interesting. He can write about the
awkwardness of bedpans or about the United Nations and make each
editorial a personal experience for his readers. It would not
be amiss for some big city editors to visit Abilene!
"The outstanding quality
of his work is the fact that he is able, consistently, to write
daily editorials which provide a voice of leadership in his community,
editorials which will help to keep his readers thinking for themselves."
- Pulitzer Prize jury's nomination
of Grimes for the prize in 1951.
48. Editorial leadership
Frank Grimes campaigned editorially
for a strong national defense, a reliable water supply for Abilene,
and a variety of local bond issues. He also campaigned, unsuccessfully,
for burying the railroad tracks that split Abilene down the middle.
49. School dropout
Frank Grimes dropped out of school
in the eighth grade because he was "bored." Later he
would say, "It was a foolish thing to do."
McMurry University awarded the
man known as "the prophet from Abilene" an honorary
doctorate in 1946.
50. Pecking away
Frank Grimes wrote an estimated
500,000 words a year in his editorials, or more than 20 million
in his 42 years as editor. He typed with his two index fingers.
51. Lone Star Christmas
Charlie Marler, longtime journalism
professor at Abilene Christian University, is the resident expert
on editor Frank Grimes. He wrote his master's thesis and doctoral
dissertation on Grimes, and he edited a collection of editorials
by Grimes about the Christmas season. The book, entitled Lone
Star Christmas, was published by ACU Press in 1989.
52. One-man show
Almost thirty years after his
death, Frank Grimes was the subject of a one-man performance
based on the Christmas editorials he had written. The performance,
written by Charlie Marler and directed by Ted Starnes, featured
the then-editor of the Reporter-News, Glenn Dromgoole,
in the role of Grimes. The play was performed during the Christmas
season in 1990 and 1991.
Abilene literally grew up reading
Frank Grimes. When Grimes joined the Abilene Reporter
in 1914, Abilene's population was about 10,000. When he died
in 1961, it was more than 90,000. Circulation of the newspaper
had grown from around 2,000 to 56,000.
54. Leltie Faucett
One of the most celebrated writers
at the Reporter-News was women's editor Leltie Faucett,
who wrote about social happenings for the newspaper for 32 years
before retiring in 1952.
In 1950 she was featured in a
Life Magazine article. A Life writer and photographer
chronicled a week of her home, social and workday life. The magazine
spread included 13 pictures.
55. Not important
It wasn't Leltie Faucett but
another writer in the women's department of the newspaper who
noticed that the bridegroom's name hadn't been filled in on a
wedding form. The Reporter called the bride's mother about
"Oh, it's not important,"
the mother said. "Nobody here knows him anyway."
56. First radio station
The first radio station in Abilene
was KRBC - the letters standing for Reporter Broadcasting
Company. Bernard Hanks and George Anderson were the principal
stockholders. The station went on the air Oct. 1, 1936, from
studios atop the Hilton Hotel, now the Windsor.
57. First TV station
The Reporter-News played
a role in the first TV station in Abilene, too. The Hanks family
had applied for a TV permit for KRBC. It was granted in 1953,
but before it could go on the air Mrs. Hanks sold the station
and the permit to members of the Ackers family. The call letters,
however, remained - even to this day.
58. Ike or Adlai?
Bernard Hanks' widow, Eva May
Hanks, became president of Reporter Publishing Co. after
Hanks died in 1948.
In 1952 the Reporter-News
board of directors voted to endorse the Republican Dwight Eisenhower
for president over Democrat Adlai Stevenson.
Frank Grimes refused to write
the endorsement, and Mrs. Hanks overrode the board's decision.
She said Mr. Hanks wouldn't have approved of the endorsement.
Although she delegated authority
to operating executives, Mrs. Hanks had the final say. She continued
as president until her death in 1967.
59. On strike
Reporter-News printers went on strike twice in the
'40s. The first strike was a wildcat, or unauthorized strike,
when printers failed to show up for the night shift on Aug. 30,
1945, and the next morning shift. The newspaper missed one issue.
On Dec. 9, 1947, the printers
union called a full-scale strike. The principal issue was who
would have control over technological innovations - the printers
or management. The printers walked out, and Reporter-News
managers and employees from other departments put the paper out.
This time the newspaper did not miss an issue, and the strike
was never resolved.
Since Bernard Hanks' death in
1948, four men have held the title of publisher of the Reporter-News:
Howard McMahon, Andrew B. "Stormy" Shelton, Frank Puckett
and David Mercier.
D. F. McCarty and Bill Martin
were general managers, in charge of business operations, but
never held the title of publisher.
61. Hubbard Creek Lake
As publisher, Howard McMahon
led the effort to expand Abilene's water supply by building Hubbard
Creek Lake. A bond issue was passed in 1959 by voters in Abilene,
Breckenridge, Albany and Anson to build the lake.
In 1961 McMahon backed a Reporter-News
investigation of reports of salt pollution which threatened the
quality of water in Hubbard Creek Lake.
The series resulted in public
action to correct the problem and a number of awards for writer
Katharyn Duff and the newspaper. But McMahon felt the heat from
oil interests responsible for the pollution.
"Without or with offense
to friends or foes
62. Air Force award
Howard McMahon and fellow Abilene
civic leader W. P. "Dub" Wright were given the Air
Force Exceptional Service Gold Medal by the Secretary of the
Air Force for their efforts in helping get Dyess Air Force Base
located in Abilene in 1956.
63. Champions of Dyess
Two Reporter-News publishers
have played critical roles in relations with Dyess Air Force
Howard McMahon was the first.
The other was Frank Puckett. Puckett became chairman of the Abilene
Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee in 1991, responsible
for promoting the continued viability of Dyess at home as well
as in Washington and Austin. Though retired from the AR-N, Puckett
continues in that role today.
Counting Frank Grimes, there
have been just six editors of the newspaper since 1919. The others
are: the late Ed Wishcamper, Dick Tarpley, Glenn Dromgoole, Jimmy
Denley and Terri Burke.
65. Managing editors
Max Bentley was named managing
editor of the Reporter-News in 1926. As managing editor,
he was responsible for the day-to-day news coverage while Frank
Grimes wrote editorials.
Others who have held the title
of managing editor include Wendell Bedichek, Hal Sayles, Ed Wishcamper,
Dick Tarpley, Richard Seaman, Rebecca Harris, Doug Williamson
and Danny Reagan. Since 1995, the editor has functioned as editor
and managing editor, assisted by a team of senior editors.
66. From Tents to Computers
The most comprehensive history
of the Abilene Reporter-News was written by former editor
Ed Wishcamper in 1981 in observance of the newspaper's 100th
birthday. The title: From Tents to Computers.
67. Story of the Prairieland
The Abilene Reporter-News
special edition of the Abilene centennial is entitled Abilene
Remembered: Our Centennial Treasury Book, 1881-1981. The book
is available from the newspaper's Web site, www.reporternews.com,
It is a reprint of a series of
special sections published to commemorate the city's 100th birthday.
The sections, distributed with the Sunday paper over a six-week
period, totaled 350 newspaper pages.
68. Catclaw Country
Katharyn Duff, the Reporter-News'
longtime Page One columnist, wrote what is still considered the
most authoritative history of Abilene - Catclaw Country: An Informal
History of Abilene in West Texas, published in 1980. Much of
the book was reprinted in the newspaper's centennial edition
69. Katharyn Duff
"In the last 50 years, Frank
Grimes and Katharyn Duff probably had more readership than anyone
- Publisher Stormy Shelton, quoted
in an article profiling Duff in 1990. She joined the newspaper
staff in 1942 and retired in 1981.
70. Gruff Duff
Bill Whitaker, later a front
page columnist himself, told a story about another young reporter
who sat down at the computer where Duff had been working, not
realizing that she had a claim on it.
"Upon returning to the computer
and finding it occupied," Whitaker said, "Katharyn
gave him such an inspired tongue-lashing that he quietly turned
in whatever he was working on, gathered his things, walked out
the door, left town and moved to Lubbock."
71. Dive-bombing blue jays
"For the better part of
two decades, Katharyn Duff greeted people each morning. She broke
the ice for them with some humorous anecdote about dive-bombing
blue jays or a tree sprouting from someone's engine block, or
maybe a gentle essay on how lovely the irises were at McMurry
University or the turning of the leaves out on Highway 277. Then
she'd send them on their way through the rest of the paper and
through the rest of the day - but always with just enough incentive
to do it all again the following morning."
- Bill Whitaker, in his eulogy
of Katharyn Duff, July 15, 1995
72. Stormy Shelton
In 1933 Andrew B. Shelton came
to Abilene from Harlingen to attend Hardin-Simmons University,
where he gained the nickname he would carry throughout his life
- "Stormy" - for his exuberant tales about a hurricane
that swept through the Rio Grande Valley. He went to work at
the Reporter in 1935 as a part-time classified ad salesman
for $7.50 a week.
73. Boss's daughter
Stormy Shelton married his HSU
sweetheart, Patty Hanks, who just happened to be the publisher's
daughter, in 1940. They would be married for 46 years until her
death in 1986.
74. Promoted to publisher
After holding various advertising
and management positions with the Reporter-News and the
emerging Harte-Hanks company, A. B. "Stormy" Shelton
was named publisher in 1964, a position he would hold for more
than 30 years.
By the time of Shelton's death
in 1997, the Reporter-News had been managed by the Hanks-Shelton
family for 90 years.
75. Technological advances
The Reporter-News switched
to computerized typesetting in 1975. In 1984 a new $6 million
printing press enabled the newspaper to use color pictures on
a daily basis throughout the paper.
76. Civic benefactor
Stormy Shelton was one of Abilene's
most generous philanthropists. Hardin-Simmons University, Hendrick
Medical Center, the West Texas Rehab Center, First Baptist Church
and United Way were among his favorite causes, but he contributed
to hundreds of others during his life. On his death, the Shelton
Family Foundation was formed to continue his benevolence.
However, Shelton preferred to
remain in the background, much like his father-in-law Bernard
Hanks and another generous Abilenian, Judy Matthews. Throughout
much of the '90s, when a large donation would be announced from
"an anonymous donor," Abilenians often would be left
to wonder whether the gift had come from Matthews or Shelton.
They became referred to - respectfully - as Anonymous One and
77. Shelton Stadium
Two Abilene facilities that are
named for Stormy Shelton are HSU's Shelton Stadium and Hendrick's
78. Role in Harte-Hanks
Stormy Shelton played a major
role in the growth and development of Harte-Hanks Communications
as an international company.
He was a board member, controlled
the largest block of stock in the company, and played a key role
in the company's decision to go public in 1972, to go back private
in 1984, and then go public again in 1993.
79. Who gets the credit?
"If you don't care who gets
the credit, you can get a lot done."
- Stormy Shelton's creed, as
reported by those closest to him.
80. Good for the town
"If it has been good for
the town, Stormy has been for it. He's believed that as the community
goes, so goes the newspaper. They will reflect each other's successes."
- Frank Puckett, Reporter-News
publisher at the time of Shelton's death, Jan. 16. 1997
81. State presidents
Two Reporter-News publishers
have presided over the state organization for publishers, the
Texas Daily Newspaper Association - Stormy Shelton in 1976 and
Frank Puckett in 1992.
Three of the newspaper's editors
have been president of the state editors' organization, the Texas
Associated Press Managing Editors Association - Ed Wishcamper
in 1959, Dick Tarpley in 1973-74, and Glenn Dromgoole in 1996-97.
82. Ed Wishcamper
Ed Wishcamper went to work at
the newspaper for no pay in 1936, "just for the experience."
A few months later he was elevated to a paying job - at $5 a
week. Sixteen years later he would be named managing editor,
then editor. He retired in 1979 and died this year.
83. Idea man
"Ed Wishcamper was noted
for his quick wit in public speeches or in civic affairs. And
he was probably the sharpest "idea man" in the newspaper
profession anywhere in the U.S."
- Dick Tarpley, who was Wishcamper's
managing editor and succeeded him as editor.
84. Minter Park
Vera Minter Park, at the corner
of North 2nd and Cypress, was editor Ed Wishcamper's brainchild.
He led the Abilene Kiwanis Club in financing and constructing
the downtown park, which includes a waterfall (turned off during
the recent drought).
85. Two doctorates
Wishcamper received not one but
two honorary doctorates - from his alma mater McMurry in 1971
and from Abilene Christian University in 1975.
86. Civic leadership
The Reporter-News gave
strong editorial leadership to a number of bond issues in the
'50s and '60s for building new public facilities. A $13.3 million
joint city-county bond issue in 1967 included the Civic Center,
Expo Center, and Municipal Airport. Earlier bond issues had financed
a new city hall, new library, Hubbard Creek Lake, and a number
of new schools, including the present Abilene High and Cooper
87. Wet by a drop
The Reporter-News took
a stand editorially in the wet-dry election of 1978, the most
hotly contested election in Abilene's history.
Two years earlier in a wet-dry
vote, the newspaper had not taken a stand, reasoning that it
might call into question the fairness of the news reporting.
By 1978, however, the newspaper decided it had to take a position.
After outlining the issues, the
carefully worded editorial concluded with these words: "The
Reporter-News believes approval of the local option is
in the best interests of Abilene."
The wets won by 131 votes out
of more than 23,000 cast. The next morning's headline told the
story: "Wet by a drop."
88. Outstanding citizens
Reporter-News publisher Howard McMahon was named Abilene's
Outstanding Citizen in 1954, Stormy Shelton won the award in
1968, Ed Wishcamper took the honor in 1974, and Frank Puckett
was the selection in 1991.
89. Dick Tarpley
Dick Tarpley joined the Reporter-News
staff in 1946 as courthouse Reporter and progressed through
the editing chairs until being named managing editor in 1968
and editor in 1979. He retired at the end of 1985 but continued
writing a weekly column for the newspaper until 1997.
90. Youngest sports editor
When he started in the newspaper
business as sports editor at the Edinburg Valley Review, Dick
Tarpley was the youngest sports editor of a daily newspaper in
America. He was 16.
91. History lesson
In her Page One column, Katharyn
Duff told a story about Dick Tarpley leading a group of school
children on a tour of the newspaper in 1975.
"You know," Tarpley
told them, "this newspaper started way back in 1881."
A little boy raised his hand.
"Were you here when it started?"
92. Responsibility of the press
Dick Tarpley preached to his
staff, and to the community through columns and speeches, that
the press has the responsibility (1) to report fairly, accurately
and thoroughly what is happening locally and nationally; (2)
to be a guardian of good government; (3) to provide leadership
in the community through the editorial page; and (4) to be a
reliable source for advertising information.
93. Familiar names
Noted Texas author A.C. Greene
got his start as a reporter for the Abilene Reporter-News,
as did author/journalist Jerry Flemmons.
Liz Carpenter was the newspaper's
Washington correspondent, with her husband Les, before becoming
Lady Bird's assistant. Garth Jones and Mike Cochran became well-known
correspondents for the Associated Press, but both worked in Abilene
Rawson Stovall was hired by editor
Dick Tarpley to review video games when Stovall was just 10 years
old. The video whiz kid columnist appeared on the "Tonight
Show," "Good Morning America" and "That's
Incredible." Bill Minutaglio went on to the Dallas Morning
News and wrote a biography of George W. Bush. Ellie Rucker started
Action Line at the Reporter-News and later was a columnist
Jim Witt, a former city editor,
became editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Another
ex-staffer, Don Flores, became editor in El Paso.
Bill Hart covered sports for
more than 20 years and was inducted into the High School Football
Hall of Fame. Jess Cagle went from entertainment writer here
to People magazine and then Entertainment Weekly. The movie "Last
Plane Out" was based on former Reporter Jim Conley's
experience covering a revolution in Nicaragua.
94. Familiar voice
As the newspaper's switchboard
operator through the '70s, '80s and '90s, Millie Ates was the
first contact most customers had with the Reporter-News
for 27 years. When she retired in 1998, someone figured she had
probably fielded more than a million calls in her career.
95. Frank Puckett
Frank Puckett joined the Reporter-News
as executive vice president and general manager in 1981, becoming
president, then publisher before his retirement in 2000.
96. Community leader
Besides his deep involvement
with Dyess as chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, Frank
Puckett played a leadership role in downtown redevelopment. He
helped organize the downtown Tax Increment Finance District in
the mid-1980s, which made tax money available for numerous downtown
improvements. He was the first head of the TIF board.
In the midst of an economic downturn
in 1989, Abilene civic leaders launched a year long community-wide
planning initiative called ACT-NOW. Puckett was tapped to head
97. All-America City
When Abilene was named an All-America
City in 1990, the decision was announced late on a Saturday night
in Phoenix, Arizona. Because Phoenix time is an hour earlier,
the newspaper held its first edition until a staffer called with
the announcement just before midnight Abilene time. The headline
proclaimed, "We're All-America!"
Abilene's nomination for the
award was based on three civic projects: providing health care
for the needy, a community-wide planning initiative, and the
approval by voters of a half-cent sales tax for industrial development,
the first city in Texas to do so.
A full-page editorial applauded
the nomination and went on to cite "20 More Reasons Why
We Think Abilene Is An All-America City."
98. Running mates
While in Washington on a Military
Affairs Committee trip in 1993, Frank Puckett, a veteran of several
marathons, was invited to go on a special run - with President
They ran together, just the two
of them accompanied by Secret Service agents, for about 30 minutes,
then Clinton invited Puckett into the Oval Office for a chat.
Puckett related the experience
in a full-page article in the Reporter-News on April 11,
99. Almost killed him
Publisher Frank Puckett broke
his back in three places and almost died in a hunting accident
on Dec. 30, 1994.
The accident occurred early in
the morning when a tree limb broke, plunging Puckett from his
hunting platform about 30 feet to the ground. In freezing temperatures,
he would not be found by his hunting companions for more than
One month later he returned to
work in a plastic body cast with rods and screws in his back.
Managing editor Danny Reagan's
two-page account of Puckett's experience was headlined "Wait
for a miracle." It won statewide awards for feature writing.
100. Glenn Dromgoole
Glenn Dromgoole came to the Reporter-News
from Bryan-College Station as executive editor in 1985 and became
editor in 1986. He left the newspaper in November 1997 to write
101. The 50 cent newspaper
On April 1, 1986, the Abilene
Reporter-News became the first newspaper in Texas to charge
50 cents for its daily editions. Soon most large dailies would
102. Afternoon edition dropped
Following an industry trend,
the Reporter-News dropped its afternoon edition in 1987
and expanded its morning edition.
103. Literacy project
The Reporter-News published
a full-page editorial in December 1987 listing "50 Ways
You Can Help Stamp Out Illiteracy." The editorial led to
the creation of the Taylor County Adult Literacy Council.
Reprints of the editorial were
requested by more than 150 newspapers, literacy organizations
and community groups in the U.S. and as far away as Australia.
104. Desert Storm
"We're at war," screamed
the headline in the Thursday morning Abilene Reporter-News,
Jan. 17, 1991, after U.S. warplanes attacked Iraq in "Operation
The newspaper announced in a
box on the front page that a special afternoon edition would
also be published that day.
"Allies kick Saddam"
was the bold headline leading the front page of the 10-page Thursday
afternoon special edition, filled with nothing but Desert Storm
news. Sold exclusively at newsstands, it was the Reporter-News'
first PM paper since the afternoon edition was dropped four years
Six weeks after Desert Storm
began, it was over, and the newspaper published a VICTORY souvenir
edition on Friday morning, March 1, 1991.
105. Civic spirit
"Two characteristics of
this city made a strong initial impression on me when I first
came here: its friendliness and its goodness. I sensed right
away that this was special ground, that through the years a civic
spirit had been molded that made Abilene different."
- Glenn Dromgoole, Abilene
Reporter-News, June 10, 1990.
"If a newspaper isn't leading
cheers for its town, who is?"
- Glenn Dromgoole, Abilene
Reporter-News, Nov. 14, 1997
Goodfellows, the Reporter-News-sponsored
Christmas charity fund drive, began in 1912 as the Mother Hubbard
Anti-empty Stocking Campaign. The Exchange Club provides the
president for the drive.
Pennies for Goodfellows was started
in 1988 as a way to encourage everyone to give something, especially
young people. School groups collect several thousand dollars
a year in change for the charity drive.
108. Religion coverage
The Reporter-News was
one of the first newspapers in the state to have a weekly section
devoted to coverage of religion. The section, edited first by
Roy Jones, then Loretta Fulton, was started in 1986 and expanded
in 1995 to include the Faith & Ethics page.
109. School boundaries
In 1991 the Abilene school board,
concerned about increasing racial imbalance at the city's two
high schools, changed the high school attendance zones. In numerous
editorials, the newspaper urged and supported the changes.
It was one of the most controversial
issues of the '90s in Abilene. Former AISD administrator David
Polnick called it "one of the best things ever to happen
to the schools here. History will bear this out."
110. Crossroads series
One of the most extensive series
published by the Reporter-News was "Crossroads: Towns
in Transition" about the challenges and opportunities facing
the small towns in the Big Country.
The project included 77 articles,
86 photographs, 70 informational graphics, filling 38 full pages
in the course of a week, Sept. 19-26, 1993. It led to the creation
of the Texas Midwest Community Network, an alliance of area towns,
and swept top state awards for journalism that year.
Other major special reports included
two on aging concerns: "Aging Parents, Caring Children"
in 1995 and "Understanding Alzheimer's" in 1997.
111. Online newspaper
The Abilene Reporter-News
went online via the worldwide web in February 1995. It was the
second newspaper in Texas (Austin was first) to offer news on
the web updated daily.
Danny Reagan, then managing editor,
became the newspaper's online editor and webmaster, and continues
to oversee its content. Reagan developed a website devoted to
news about the Dallas Cowboys in the fall of 1995, and that site
brought thousands of readers to the Reporter-News online
product from all over the world.
The online newspaper (www.reporternews.com)
has continued to grow to more than 15,000 unique visitors a day,
logging two million page views a month. In April of this year
the newspaper added an online video newscast, ARNoonCast.
112. New owner
Early in 1997 Harte-Hanks Communications,
founded as a newspaper company, announced it would sell all of
its daily newspapers.
On May 19, 1997, The E. W. Scripps
Co. signed an agreement to purchase the Harte-Hanks papers, including
the Reporter-News. The sale became effective on Oct. 15,
Scripps is one of the nation's
oldest newspaper groups, established in 1878, three years before
113. Jimmy Denley
James H. Denley, a veteran Scripps
newspaperman, was named editor of the Reporter-News on
Dec. 1, 1997. He stayed for about a year and a half before taking
a Scripps assignment in Memphis, Tenn.
114. Color Comics
In 1998 the Reporter-News
became the first Texas newspaper to publish its daily comics
page in full color every day.
115. Spelling Bee
The Reporter-News began
sponsoring the Taylor County Spelling Bee in 1999. The local
winner advances to the National Spelling Bee, sponsored by Scripps,
in Washington, D.C.
A Wylie student, Kayla Lyssy,
has won the local Bee all three years.
Scripps also has demonstrated
its presence in Abilene as a strong financial supporter of local
literacy and community causes through the Scripps Howard Foundation.
116. Terri Burke
Terri Burke became the sixth
and current editor of the Reporter-News in November 1999
and the first woman to hold the top editorial job. A fourth-generation
Texan, she came to Abilene from the Scripps-owned Albuquerque
Tribune, where she was managing editor.
117. David Mercier
The current publisher, David
Mercier, was promoted from vice president for sales and marketing
to publisher of the Reporter-News upon Frank Puckett's
retirement, Aug. 1, 2000. Mercier came to Abilene in 1998 from
Palm Springs, Calif.
He leads a staff of 230 employees
plus several hundred agents and contractors who work throughout
the Big Country. The Reporter-News consistently ranks
among the top 50 newspapers in the United States in market penetration,
with three of four adults reading the paper at least once a week.
Market studies show that 70 percent of the residents of Taylor
County say the newspaper is their primary source of advertising
Besides the Reporter-News,
the company publishes The Abilenian, Dyess Peacemaker, Money
Clip and Abilene Magazine.
118. Local section
In May 2000 the Reporter-News
added a local news section and changed the width of the newspaper
to a narrower, more convenient size.
119. Water woes
The Reporter-News published
an eight-day series in July 2000 examining Abilene's water situation,
a continuing concern for the community throughout its history.
"We believe no other issue
is more important to the future of our city and our region,"
wrote editor Terri Burke.
The series won the community
service award this spring from the Texas Associated Press Managing
120. Ensuring its future
"I know I'm just a steward
of this institution - tending it and nurturing it on behalf of
its readers, charged with ensuring its future for long after
I've retired to a porch near Catclaw Creek."- Terri Burke,
Abilene Reporter-News, Nov. 21, 1999
"The Abilene Reporter-News
plans to be an integral part of Abilene and West Texas for another
century of growth and opportunity."- Publisher David
Compiled by former editor
Glenn Dromgoole. Sources include From Tents to Computers by Ed
Wishcamper; Catclaw Country by Katharyn Duff; Lone Star Christmas:
Seasonal Editorials of Frank Grimes by Charles Marler; Abilene
Remembered: Our Centennial Treasury Book, 1881-1981 by the Abilene Reporter-News staff; and numerous newspaper files,
including the AR-N's 50th anniversary edition. Retired editor
Dick Tarpley, retired reporter
Bob Bruce and newspaper librarian Ginny Daughtrey provided valuable
assistance. Edited by Danny Reagan and designed by Sally-Anne
For a full-size digital copy
of this special section, click on the links below. (To fit them
onto standard 8-1/2x11" letterhead-sized paper, print at