Past president McAlister dies at age 89

Monday, 18 June 2001

Aubrey Lee McAlister, 89, of Taylor, died Tuesday, May 15, 2001, at Scott & White Hospital in Temple. McAlister served as TPA president from 1964-65.

“I have long felt there is too much negative emphasis put on the responsibility of a newspaper to be ‘against’ corruption in government and individuals, against sin and fast driving. I prefer to be ‘for’ good government, honest individuals, good people and slow drivers,” McAlister said in his presidency announcement in the August 1964 Texas Press Messenger.

McAlister was born Oct. 5, 1911, in Walters, Okla., the son of W.M. and Stella Lowe McAlister.

He got his first taste of his chosen profession as a printer’s devil at the Walters’ newspaper as a teen-ager. Over the years, he learned to operate the printing equipment of the day, much of which included setting type by hand.

After graduating from Walters High School, McAlister attended and graduated from Cameron College, a junior college in Lawton, Okla., and then received his journalism degree from Oklahoma State University (then Oklahoma A&M).

While at the college, McAlister worked on the student newspaper, played in the university band and was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity.

He met Audrey Wiley while working in South Texas. They married in Eagle Pass on July 15, 1935.

Shortly after, McAlister was hired by a Stillwater, Okla., newspaper and the couple made their home there. He was working for Oklahoma A&M College as director of student publications when World War II broke out.

Although exempt from the draft, McAlister enlisted in the U.S. Navy, going through boot camp in San Diego. He was one of the first 20 reporters send out under Secretary of the Navy Forrestal’s Enlisted Navy Correspondent Program during World War II.

As a Navy enlisted correspondent, he served aboard the battleship USS Colorado, participating in the battle for Okinawa. He was aboard as the ship sailed into Tokyo harbor and was anchored nearby as the Japanese surrender was signed on the USS Missouri.

After the war, he and his family moved to Hominy, Okla., where he became co-owner and publisher of the Hominy News. He later sold the News and became owner and publisher of the Grove Sun in Grove, Okla.

In 1955, McAlister and a partner bought the Bonham Daily Favorite in Texas, where he was publisher until it was sold in 1976. He continued to operate the Whitewright Sun for several years.

Before purchasing the Favorite he also was associate editor of the Stillwater Daily Press, managing editor of the Anadarko Daily News and publisher of the Clarksville (Ark.) Graphic.

In his 1964 presidency announcement, McAlister said the highlight of his career to that point had been covering the illness and death of longtime Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Sam Rayburn, who lived in Bonham.

“I have a feeling that the community newspaper is the most important factor in community progressiveness and growth and I have the belief that the community has the right to expect is newspaper to lead the way,” McAlister wrote in the announcement.

McAlister was a member of the East Texas Chamber of Commerce, which named him Man of the Month in 1964. The Bonham Chamber of Commerce named him the town’s Outstanding Citizen. McAlister was chairman of the Bonham Water Authority, which built a water supply lake for the community. He was chairman of the Fannin County Fair and chaired the city’s first planning and zoning commission.

He and his family were members of the First Presbyterian Church of Bonham where he served as an elder and a deacon.

McAlister was a friend of the late U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn, and published a special issue on the occasion of the dedication of Sam’s Library in Bonham. The newspaper office became the center of national attention when Rayburn, who lived in Bonham, was diagnosed with cancer.

Active in the Texas Press Association, McAlister was elected to the board of directors in the early 1960s. He served as the TPA president in 1964, and was its board chairman the following year.

His son, Don McAlister, followed his father into the newspaper business and currently is editor of the Taylor Daily Press.

Over nearly half a century, McAlister was a member of a several Rotary Clubs, including Bonham and Whitewright. He was president of two clubs and served on the board of directors of others. He was a Paul Harris Fellow, selected for that honor by his fellow Rotarians in Whitewright.

Survivors include his wife, Audrey, of Taylor; one son, Don McAlister and wife, Ginny, of Taylor; one granddaughter, Sara Delao and husband, Lt. Marc Delao, of Crete, Greece; two great-grandchildren, Rachel and Matthew Delao; and one brother, Ray McAlister of San Diego, Calif.

He was preceded in death by three sisters and a granddaughter, Cheryl McAlister.

Memorials may be sent to the American Cancer Society.