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The Handbook of Texas

SMU Library Collection

A.H. Belo Corporation

Alfred Belo

Galveston Daily News

Hall of Fame Class of 2007

Alfred Horatio Belo was born in Salem, N.C., in May 1839, into a prosperous family. He was well educated from an early age, and when the Civil War commenced he chose to fight for the Confederacy, to which North Carolina had made its allegiance. He fought with the 55th North Carolina Regiment and he was severely wounded twice, first at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, and then in the battle of Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864.

After the surrender in 1865, Belo made his way to Galveston in search of opportunity. After making inquiries in the Houston vicinity, Belo was introduced to Willard Richardson, publisher of The Galveston Daily News and the Texas Almanac.

The news had begun publication in 1842, and Richardson had taken over from George French and Samuel Bangs in 1845. He established
the Texas Almanac in 1857, and by the time of the Civil War, Richardson had built The News into the largest and most influential newspaper in Texas. However, Richardson’s publishing company was in disarray after the war and on Aug. 31, 1865, Belo became bookkeeper for the company, signing on for the sum of $500 in gold for six months’ service.

Even before the six months were up, the bright, young Belo had so transformed the business operations that Richardson invited him to buy and interest in the paper and become his partner. By 1868, with financial assistance from his father, Belo owned half of the company, which they named Richardson, Belo & Co. In 1876, after Richardson’s death, Belo became the sole owner, renaming the firm A.H. Belo & Company in 1881.

Belo established the first use in Texas of the newly invented telephone, connecting his home and The Galveston Daily News; and he built a news company headquarters and newspaper printing plant in Galveston using the most advanced printing technology available. He was the first to envision a statewide distribution system using the growing railroad system to deliver the Galveston paper to a far-reaching readership across Texas, and he commissioned a map to be prepared of the state’s railroads in 1887, so that he could continue to enlarge the distribution network as the railroads reached new destinations. The map was published by Rand, McNally & Co. on Sept. 1, 1887.

In 1885, Belo sent George Bannerman Dealey, who had been working his way up at the company since 1874, to start a sister newspaper in Dallas, creating the nation's first newspaper chain. Belo gave Dealey the title of business manager to oversee the establishment of The Dallas Morning News, which published its first edition on Oct. 1, 1885. Belo equipped the new building in Dallas with the state's first commercial use of electric lights.

Belo was one of the founders of the Associated Press and a respected leader among publishers nationwide for his high ideals and commitment to unbiased news coverage, which was unusual at a time when most newspapers were aligned with a particular political view. However, Belo was never completely healthy after the Civil War, and he spent many months of each year seeking treatments in more agreeable climates than that of Texas. His family maintained a summer home in Asheville, N.C., where he died on April 19, 1901, at age 62.

On Belo's death, Harper's Weekly published an extensive obituary which said in part, "No one has ever done more for the material development and moral upbuilding of Texas, and of the entire South, than this man, for his papers were widely circulated throughout the entire Southern Section. He always stood unflinchingly and unselfishly for what he believed was the highest and best in morals and in politics, for his courage was of that sterling quality that could not be intimidated by threat or influenced by gain."

Biography prepared by Judith Garrett Segura

Aug. 30, 2006