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 The Abilene Reporter-News


120 Years in Abilene

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.

2. Twins

"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 the other."

- 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.

5. Fire!

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 First.

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 dwellings."

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.

17. Drought!

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 over.

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 fragrance."

- Abilene Reporter, May 8, 1891

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. 17, 1897

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.

26. Objectivity

"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.

36. Harte-Hanks

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 Texas 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…because it 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 spring-

The redbird's back and the fie' larks sing,

The ground's plowed up and the creeks run clear,

The onions sprout and the rosebud's near;

And yet they's a point worth thinkin' about-

We note that the old mesquites ain't out! The fancier trees are in full bloom,

The grass is green and the willows bloom,

The colts kick up and the calves bend down,

And spring's a-pear-ently come to town;

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 so, too,

The cal-en-dar says it's plenty true -

And still they's a point worth thinkin' about -

We note that the old mesquites ain't out!

46. Robbed!

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.

53. Growth

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 the oversight.

"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.

60. Publishers

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 Base.

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.

64. Editors

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, keyword: shoparn

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 in 1981.

69. Katharyn Duff

"In the last 50 years, Frank Grimes and Katharyn Duff probably had more readership than anyone else."

- 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 Anonymous Two.

77. Shelton Stadium

Two Abilene facilities that are named for Stormy Shelton are HSU's Shelton Stadium and Hendrick's Shelton Building.

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 locations.

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 first.

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 in Austin.

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 the effort.

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 Bill Clinton.

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, 1993.

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 six hours.

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 books.

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 follow suit.

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 Desert Storm."

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 earlier.

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.

106. Cheerleader

"If a newspaper isn't leading cheers for its town, who is?"

- Glenn Dromgoole, Abilene Reporter-News, Nov. 14, 1997

107. Goodfellows

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 (cowboys.texnews.com) 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, 1997.

Scripps is one of the nation's oldest newspaper groups, established in 1878, three years before the Reporter-News.

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 information.

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 Editors Association.

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 Mercier

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 Moringello.

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 50%.)

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 Online Rate Card (PDF)

 Our media profile (PDF - includes all pages below)
  About Reporter Publishing (PDF)
  AR-N Daily Features (PDF)
  AR-N Daily Sections (PDF)
  Products and Services (PDF)
  Dyess PeaceMaker (PDF)
  The Money Clip (PDF)
  ReporterNews.Com (PDF)
  Targeted Sections (PDF)
  AR-N Circulation (PDF)
  AR-N Readership by Age, Income (PDF)
  Abilene Employment (PDF)
  Abilene Market Profile (PDF)

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