125th Summer Convention, Friday, June 18, 2004, Austin
James Thomas "Jimmy" Bass, Mount Vernon Optic Herald
Wayne Greer, Graham Newspapers
Arlan Hays, San Augustine Tribune
Roger W. Jones, Riesel Rustler
Stella Orozco, San Antonio Commercial Recorder
William B. "Bill" Wilkerson, Pleasanton Express
Patricia Bass Wright, Mount Vernon Optic Herald
James T. “Jimmy” Bass began his newspaper career on the Jefferson Jimplecute in 1927 at the age of 12. He delivered the Jimplecute on horseback and learned typesetting and printing.
In 1933, he went to work for the Longview News and Journal. He was working for Charles K. Devall at the Kilgore newspaper when he married Lonatish Hebisen in March 1937. She had a family background in the weekly newspaper business in Forney and Emory, knowledge that would benefit the family later. Shortly after the marriage, they moved to Beverly Hills, Calif., where Jimmy worked for Will Rogers, Jr., who published the Beverly Hills Citizen and several other newspapers for the Los Angeles area.
They returned to Longview in October 1937 and he worked for the News and Journal, until July 1, 1951, when Jim and Tish both went to work for the Gladewater Daily Mirror.
On May 1, 1952, Jim and Tish bought the Mount Vernon Optic-Herald. The entire family went to work on the newspaper.
They bought the present building that houses the Optic in 1963. The couple oversaw the conversion to offset printing in November 1971. Another event, noted with publication on Nov. 22, 1973, was the return of Bob and Pat Wright to the Optic-Herald family. The combined Bass-Wright group formed Four Corners Publishing, Inc. and purchased the Deport Times, Bogata News and the Talco Times, and printed the first edition of the papers under new ownership by offset. The Blossom Times was established on Oct. 28, 1976, completing the small chain of newspapers.
Jimmy Bass was active in all facets of life in Mount Vernon, and was president of the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce the same year. Posthumously, he was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Mount Vernon Rotary Club. He was the local observer for the National Weather Service from 1966 until 1986. His editorial in favor of building Lake Cypress Springs influenced the election, which passed by a margin of fewer than 30 votes. The lake was discovered by residents of the Metroplex and now the homes surrounding the lake provide a substantial tax base for Franklin County.
He was president of North and East Texas Press and received the Sam C. Holloway Memorial Award from that organization.
The newspaper won many contests in North and East Texas Press and in Texas Press, but he published his newspaper for the people of Mount Vernon and Franklin County. His “Optics” column was a favorite of readers.
He continued to work part-time at the newspaper even after it was sold to his daughter and son-in-law, Bob and Pat Wright, in 1980. He died in 1987, leaving a legacy of community newspapering for his family.
Wayne Greer has left miles of ink, grease and smiles across the dusty roads of West and South Texas, forging a half-century trail to Graham.
Although his travels have taken him through good times and bad, he’s never lost his sense of humor nor pride in his craft.
His first taste of the newspaper business came soon after a short stint on a turkey farm.
“We were as poor as a church mouse,” Greer recalls. “When Dad had a heart attack, I had to go to work, but I wanted to finish high school.”
Greer worked at odd jobs, and while in the eighth grade tried his hand in the fowl industry.
The third day of his freshman year he quit the turkey business and went to work for the Coleman County Chronicle & Democrat-Voice.
Greer earned enough money to help out the family, buy school clothes and keep a jingle in his pocket, but most importantly he was learning a trade.
“My first job at The Chronicle was whatever they told me to do,” Greer explains. “This was back in the old hot-metal days. Anything bigger than 18-point we had to handset.”
Greer left The Chronicle to enroll at the University of Texas at Austin, but his college career was short lived. “I ran out of money the first semester,” Greer recalls. “And I was too stubborn to take any handouts.”
Although the publisher of The Chronicle and a local lawyer offered to bankroll his education, Wayne refused, preferring to make it on his own. He did, however, take the publisher up on his old job.
By the time he left The Chronicle in 1966, he was shop foreman with a firm grasp of the inner workings of a newspaper and commercial print shop from the ground up.
He gained most of his notoriety as a fix-it man.
“I was born with a mechanical ability,” Greer says. “I grew up on a farm and was always working on cars.
“I always figured if somebody was smart enough to build it, I could read a book and fix it.
“I’ll work on anything but the crack of dawn or a broken heart.”
After a short-lived career with the Temple Daily Telegram – “I didn’t get along with the superintendent” – he found his niche at The McCamey News.
With two weeklies and a large commercial printing business, Greer soon made his way once again to shop foremen. Greer stayed on in McCamey for nearly four years before trying his hand in other parts of the state. But the dye was cast.
In August 1969 he was in Longview and by the early 1970s he was with the Houston Chronicle.
“I had the opportunity to start learning cold type,” Greer remembers.
The newspaper sent him to the East Coast for schooling. In New York he attended one of the last schools put on by Merganthaler Linotype in a last-ditch effort to keep the hot-metal process alive. In Boston he was introduced to an Electronic Character Recognition Machine, the early predecessor of today’s print scanners.
Having built a reputation as a troubleshooter all across Texas, Greer returned to McCamey in 1975 after “me and the union got cross ways.”
On Jan. 1, 1980, he was owner – “chief cook and bottle washer” – of The McCamey News. The publication and the print shop it housed also served the even smaller community of Iraan.
As publisher/editor/sales manager, Greer slowly built the business up to seven employees and a circulation of 1,200.
“It wasn’t very big; it was a small weekly. But we had a large commercial printing business for office supplies and silk screening T-shirts, ball caps, you name it,” he says
He served almost 30 years in the volunteer fire service, signing on with the McCamey EMS while it was in its infancy and becoming a member of the Upton County Civil Defense Rescue.
“I’d get to a scene as an EMS and when the emergency was over, I’d pull off my EMS hat and put on my publisher’s hat. I got a lot of pictures I wouldn’t have otherwise,” Greer says.
His willingness to help others has forged many a friendship within the business, but none so apparent as the Moores in Ozona.
“He was a blessing to Linda and me,” says Scotty Moore, recently retired publisher of the Ozona Stockman. “Without him and his tremendous expertise and knowledge of the printing industry, we probably would have thrown up our hands in disgust a long time ago, with a for-sale sign on the front door.”
After a quarter of a century running his McCamey empire, a domestic disagreement with his wife left him without a home or a job.
“I was self-employed until June 1998. I got fired,” he jokes.
An advertisement in the Texas Press Association newsletter led Greer to Graham Newspapers Inc., and in April 1999, he signed on as pressroom foreman.
The Graham group’s publishing business has flourished under Greer’s gentle tutelage. The company has gone from a six-unit News King in the back shop to a million-dollar, nine-unit Web Leader setup with its own building.
Greer’s day-to-day operations at Graham Newspapers Inc. include overseeing printing five of the company’s six publications, The Graham Leader, Olney Enterprise, Jacksboro Gazette-News, Jack County Herald and Lake Country Sun – the companion Breckenridge American has its own press – and several commercial jobs.
He keeps the Web Leader and all the peripheral printing necessities – imagesetter, plate burner, inserter, etc. – in tip-top condition.
In May 1916, the San Augustine Tribune came into the Hays family. Webster F. Hays, a veteran newspaperman and printer, bought the Tribune from Mrs. Bernice Harrison whose husband had edited it for four years before his death.
When Webb Hays came to San Augustine in 1916, he had three children ages 6, 4 and 2 and another girl came within a month of his arrival in San Augustine. In 1918, another girl was born.
The Tribune was a family operation, which had very little advertising and a meager circulation. When Hays took over the Tribune he brought an unmarried sister who had worked with him as a typesetter in Mt. Enterprise. Several years later she married the printer, who was working at the Tribune.
The circulation began to grow also and by the Depression in 1930 the Tribune had more than 1,000 subscribers.
Newsprint was not scarce during World War I but it was very short in World War II, and advertising was also short.
Webb Hays published newspapers in Central Texas, at Itasca, Copperas Cove, Hondo and other towns in the early 1900’s and he found that to have an editorial or a personal column every week was impractical due to the lack of important subjects, so a personal column and an editorial page was not featured. An occasional editorial, when the need arose, was very powerful but the Tribune’s policy was, and still is, to use editorials very sparingly.
Webb’s middle son, Arlan Hays, began helping in the shop at the age of 12, doing what he could do. In 1926 a new job press was purchased and his dad had him make up the form and print the first job on the new press. The press is still in the shop, and in usable condition, although it has not run in about 30 years.
Until the early 1970’s, the Tribune was printed on a four-page single revolution printing press that had been one of the battery of presses in the Houston Chronicle in the 1890’s.
It was a single sheet, hand fed press that had a speed of about 1200 sheets an hour. It printed up to four pages at a time.
In the early part of 1933, after Arlan Hays had graduated from high school the year before, he took over operation of the printing plant while Webb and oldest daughter, Beryl handled the news department. He is still associated with the publication at age 90.
Offset printing, which the Tribune joined in early 1970 and faster photography, drastically changed operations. Beginning at the age of 13 or 14, Stephen Hays, Arlan Hays’ only son, grew up with the photography department, which carried some of the other newspaper and reporting skill with it. In 1997, Stephen joined his dad in the operation of the Tribune and is co-publisher.
Webster Hays died Aug. 31, 1968 at 87 after spending a lifetime serving his community.
The Tribune also has the enviable record of only missing the mail twice in the 88 years that the Hays family has operated it. One publication in 1920 when a fire next door filled the building with smoke and firemen wet the machinery by mistake and again in 1995 during an electrical failure at the central printing plant.
The Tribune’s circulation has grown from the few hundred copies when Webster Hays started in 1916 to a peak of 5,400 in the mid 1990s.
The current circulation is about 4,500.
The Tribune is proud of a feature known as the J.E. Miller Memorial Fund that allows a copy of the Tribune to be sent to residents in local nursing homes free each week.
After growing up around newspapers such as the Scurry County Times, Hamlin Herald, Haskell Free Press, owned and operated by his uncle Willard Jones, a longtime TPAer, and the Waco Tribune-Herald, where his father was a Linotype operator and night ad foreman, Roger W. Jones went to work as a printer’s devil in 1951 at the Waco Tribune-Herald at the age of 15.
By completing his courses of study in the International Typographical Union, which required working in all aspects of the Composing Room, Jones left the Waco newspaper and took a position in the composing room of The Dallas Morning News in 1960.
In September 1961, Jones and his wife Barbara purchased the Waco Farm and Labor Journal, along with Pittillo Printing Co. and in September 1987 they bought the Riesel Rustler at Riesel and started Hometown News, a weekly newspaper to serve the Southwestern section of McLennan County.
The desire was to get away from the hard news of daily newspapers and to run a lot of pictures and stories of local Little League, school, church and smaller cities within their area.
This has been a labor of love and several honors have been received, including the statewide award of the Association of Texas Professional Educators’ Alafair Hammett Award in 1997 (two statewide awards are given each year, one to the electronic media, and one to the print media that have been judged to have done the best job of promoting the Texas public school system.)
In addition, Midway Independent School District PTA honored Jones as a lifetime member of Texas PTA.
In 1998, in recognition of his contributions to the Hometown News area Roger was presented the Hewitt Hero Award by the Hewitt, Texas Chamber of Commerce.
“I still consider myself a printer and newspaper man of the old school, having operated a printing company and newspaper or newspapers as editor and publisher since 1961. I feel that through these channels I have been able to, in some small way, repay my community for the outstanding opportunities that have been afforded my family and myself,” Roger said.
Stella Orozco started working for the daily Commercial Recorder in San Antonio June 8, 1951 fresh out of high school. Her career started as a part-time employee working for Mrs. Miskimin, the daughter of the newspaper’s founder. Mrs. Miskimin recognized Orozo’s abilities and promoted her to a full-time position the next week.
Over the years the Commercial Recorder has seen several owners, the most recent being Bill Johnson, each of whom has kept Orozco in her position as legal editor of the paper and corporate grand master of Prime Time, Inc.
Orozco’s knowledge of legal notices is beyond reproach. She is the “source.” Her expertise is called upon by local courts as well as attorneys and she is highly regarded by both the District and County Clerks’ offices.
Day-in and day-out for the last 53 years she has cheerfully proofed every page of San Antonio’s legal paper. She has proofed famous births, deaths, seen the transfers of property that have resulted in San Antonio’s tremendous growth and read many a lawsuit and disposition.
Orozco has lived newspaper history having been involved in producing daily papers using technology ranging from hand set type to the modern computer age. She has been dragged, kicking and screaming at times, through technological innovations.
Her old manual Royal typewriter still decorates the office along with many of the antiques she has acquired over the years. Now, she is computer savvy. E-mail and the Internet don’t scare her!
In addition to being the Bexar County “Legal Eagle,” Orozco found the time to raise four wonderful children and has a whole group of very talented grandchildren and great grandchildren.
If William (Bill) Brightman Wilkerson’s blood isn’t burnt orange due from his many years of devotion to the University of Texas at Austin, then it is surely ink.
Born to J. C. and Alma May Wilkerson April 12, 1929, Wilkerson became a second generation newspaper man at the early age of 8 as a printer’s devil at the Comanche Chief where his father was the publisher. He worked many hours during his youth and has scars from the hot lead as proof.
Wilkerson graduated from the University of Texas in 1951 and married his college sweetheart Judith Blanton Wilkerson in 1950. She also has ink in her blood as her mother, Katherine Englebright Blanton, was the society editor of the Temple Daily Telegram.
While at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn during the Korean Conflict, he attended night school to learn the ins and outs of a machine he grew to hate — the Linotype. In 1956, he returned to Comanche to serve as editor of the Comanche Chief shortly after his brother James passed away. Three children were born and raised in this newspaper family — David, Katie and Noel.
While running the Comanche Chief, the Wilkersons also bought the De Leon Free Press, which they owned and served as publishers until 1998. In 1974, he and Judy sold their interest in the Chief and purchased the Pleasanton Express from Ruth Daetwyler after her husband and the Wilkerson’s longtime friend, Wally, succumbed to cancer in 1973. A natural ad salesman by heart coupled with outstanding business smarts, success was sure to follow Wilkerson.
The paper prospered during the heyday of the oil field boom and held tight during the bust. All the while, he maintained the credo “Let’s get the best product we can out there and have as much fun as we can!”
Under his watchful eye, the Pleasanton Express has continued to prosper, grow and become a respected publication among its peers. Over the past 30 years, the newspaper has won more than 100 awards from the South Texas Press Association and Texas Press Association with a quarter of them being first-place honors.
In the 80’s, Bill and Judy Wilkerson joined Bill Berger of the Hondo Anvil Herald in establishing the South Texas Press. Craig Garnett with the Uvalde Leader-News has since joined them in this successful partnership that currently prints numerous weeklies, inserts and other collateral material.
Wilkerson has maintained a close affiliation with the South Texas Press Association family where he served as president from 1968-69, and secretary/treasurer from 1985-2004. There have been only three secretary/treasurers in STPA’s 77-year history! Wilkerson, who never met a party he didn’t like, has only missed one STPA convention since 1956 and that was because he was flat on his back in the hospital. Bill and Judy Wilkerson were the youngest couple when they joined STPA and now they are the oldest couple in attendance. He has also served as a board member and member of the Texas Press Association for many years.
Bill and Judy Wilkerson retired from the everyday grind in 1989 and moved to Austin where they remain as owners and publishers.
Patricia Bass Wright started working in May 1952 at age 9 after her parents, Jim and Tish Bass, bought the Mount Vernon Optic-Herald. She stood on boxes to set type from California job cases and ran the Linotype machine. She shot sideline photos at football games during the third quarter when she was off from playing in the Mount Vernon High School Band.
She graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 1960 and attained a BS degree in journalism and business management from East Texas State University in 1964. She was business manager, then editor of The East Texan, the school newspaper, and later was assistant of the college magazine, the Locust Special. In 1996, she was named an ambassador of the Alumni Association. Upon graduation from East Texas, she moved to Denison, where she sold advertising for the Denison Herald and did volunteer work with the Girls Club.
After eight years at the Herald, she became retail advertising manager at the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel.
She married Robert W. Wright in November 1972 and they moved to Baton Rouge, La., in April 1973.
In November 1973, the couple bought the Deport Times, Talco Times and the Bogata News and went into partnership with her parents. They founded the Blossom Times in 1976.
Following the illness and retirement of Jim Bass in 1980, the Wrights moved to Mount Vernon and bought the Bass’ interest in the Optic-Herald. The smaller newspapers were sold in 1982.
That same year, the newspaper won the Sweepstakes Award from the North and East Texas Press Association, the first of several journalism and photography awards for the newspaper since that time.
She was awarded the Sam C. Holloway Award from the North and East Texas Press Association for outstanding contributions to her profession in 1991. She has been president of NETPA.
She became publisher of the Optic-Herald upon the death of her husband in April 1997.
Wright is a pilot and founding member and officer of the Wildflower Chapter of “The Ninety-Nines,” an international association of women pilots.
She and her late husband were the driving forces in getting an airport in Franklin County, a dream that became a reality in July 1987. The Franklin County Airport was completed with state and federal funds, and a terminal and community hall were built with community donations.
She has served on the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, and is still on the Airport Board and the Mount Vernon Housing Authority Board. She served 17 years as a volunteer Accident Prevention Counselor with the Federal Aviation Administration. As a member of Rotary, she has been named a Paul Harris Fellow.
Pat is a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant. She has served on the vestry and currently serves as a lay-reader.
She supports countless community projects as publisher of the Mount Vernon Optic-Herald, not the least of which was helping to raise funds and build the School Bus Accident Memorial now standing on the grounds at the Mount Vernon School campus.
Within the next year, she will extend the legacy of the newspaper by selling it to the third generation, a niece, Susan Reeves, and her husband, John.