“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
In search of a living, I entered journalism through the front door of The (Naples, Texas) Monitor. The list of mentors I would accumulate started with Morris Craig, editor and publisher of The Monitor then, and today.
I had been there just long enough to learn how to spell journalism when Craig (that’s what everyone except his mother and his first-grade teacher called him) sent me up north of Dallas to accept North and East Texas Press Association (NETPA) awards for The Monitor. I’d like to tell you where it was but that has been some 45 years and many conventions ago.
Where ever it was, that’s where I met several newspaper professionals who I would not only come to consider mentors for journalism “the right way,” but also friends. People like Roy Eaton at the Decatur Wise County Messenger, Bob Hamilton at The Iowa Park Leader, Dick White at The Pittsburg Gazette, and others whose names will come to me probably right after this piece is printed.
I knew one person in the room that day, Dick White. He and my father were both graduates of Pittsburg (Texas) High School: dad Class of ’41, Mr. White class of ’42. Childhood summers at my grandparents in Pittsburg left me with memories of the Gazette office where Granny took me when she placed classified ads or bought extra papers for friends or family.
Memories of strawberry ice cream cones at Lockett’s Drug Store next door rank right up there with Mr. White’s personal attention to customers whether for 10-cent newspapers or 25-cent classified ads.
Following The Monitor and a stint at the Many, Louisiana, Sabine News, I decided purchasing a community newspaper was next. Desiring to locate near my Mount Pleasant hometown, my first stop was dad’s friend and my press association mentor, Mr. White in Pittsburg.
Sporting my new blue leisure suit and tie wide enough for billboard space, I entered the Gazette office one Saturday morning where Mr. White listened intently to my thoughts about how my “background and knowledge” had not only convinced me community newspapers was where I belonged but also compelled me to join the ranks of newspaper ownership.
Hearing my passionate presentation, he followed with his respect for my insight, research, and planning while adding questions about methods of operation, goals for the future, and my thoughts on what was to come for newspapers.
After a long, enlightening, and enjoyable visit, he thanked me for considering The Gazette as an acquisition but told me, almost apologetically, that he was not quite ready to sell yet. He promised, however, when that day came, I would be his first call.
Fast forward from the 70s into the mid-1980s when I was serving as publisher of the Light and Champion in Center, Texas, held ownership interests in a small group of newspapers and was about to become president of NETPA. That additional time and experience had taught me how little I actually knew the day I asked Mr. White to sell me his paper. It also taught me that he probably knew that the day he politely listened to me before graciously saying he just wasn’t ready to sell. Time had also changed both of his thoughts on selling when he called to tell me that he had a good offer for The Gazette but wanted to give me the first right of refusal as he had promised he would years before.
Thanking him profusely, I told him that I had a great opportunity where I was and added again before we ended our conversation that I really appreciated his call. It’s rare when people say things like that then actually follow through on it years later when the time comes. But, that’s just the kind of guy he was.
“Thomas Richard (‘Dick’) White, loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather died peacefully on April 6, 2019. Dick’s life showed devotion to God, family, friends, community, and country,” his obituary in The Gazette begins.
The Gazette was Mr. White’s living, but the innumerable stories like mine, what he gave to people like me, and devoted to community journalism “the right way” was his life and is his legacy.
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