Bernard Hanks

Bernard HanksHall of Fame logo

Bernard Hanks

Harte-Hanks Newspapers Inc.

Hall of Fame Class of 2015

Born Sept. 19, 1884, in Dallas, Bernard Hanks was the son of a Baptist minister. The family moved to Abilene in 1892 and at age 8 Hanks began his newspaper career as a carrier of the Abilene Daily Reporter, managed by George Anderson.

Hanks attended Baylor University, returned to Abilene and took a job at a grocery store. When the store threatened to cut his wages, Hanks went to work for Anderson at the Reporter as a bookkeeper and business manager.

During the 1920s, Anderson took control of Abilene Printing and Stationery Co. and let Hanks manage the newspaper. Hanks operated the newspaper with this creed:

  1. A newspaper’s prime business is news. It should get news and get it straight.
  2. The paper is not to use its power to reward friends or punish opponents.
  3. A newspaper should assume responsibility for leadership; it should invest itself in causes that advance the area it serves.
  4. A newspaper should have courage.
  5. A newspaper should serve the people.

In the 1920s, Hanks met Houston Harte, owner of the San Angelo Standard-Times, during a newspaper meeting at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. The meeting resulted in a partnership between the two newspapermen that purchased the Lubbock Plains Journal. Within a few months, the newspaper evolved into a daily publication. Eventually, the Plains Journal took over its rival, the Lubbock Avalanche to become the Lubbock Avalanche Journal.

That was the beginning of a long, profitable relationship. The men eventually sold the Lubbock newspaper and it was their next purchase of the Corpus Christi Times that cemented their business bonds. During the ensuing 10 years, Harte-Hanks Newspapers Inc. would assume ownership positions in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, The Paris News, The Big Spring Herald and the Marshall News.

In 1926, Hanks published the first edition of the Abilene Morning News, the first morning daily paper in Texas west of Fort Worth and east of El Paso.

Harte-Hanks Communications Inc. would grow to include newspapers, radio and television stations, cable television operations and direct marketing services. At its peak, Harte-Hanks owned 26 dailies and 46 other papers, having expanded through the Southwest to the West Coast and to several northeastern cities. In 1972, Harte-Hanks became publicly traded. In 1983, Harte-Hanks President Bob Marbut said, “There was a time when Harte-Hanks thought nothing above the Red River was worth buying.”

Behind the scenes, Hanks supported the communities his newspapers served, helping Abilene to secure a number of important businesses and government operations including Dyess Air Force Base. He raised horses in Abilene and two of his thoroughbreds ran in the Kentucky Derby. He believed a newspaper should “Always keep an eye out for the little fellow, the big ones can look after themselves.”

Hanks died Dec. 12, 1948, but the company he helped create and build continued to thrive. His daughter, Patty, married A.B. “Stormy” Shelton, who served as publisher of the Abilene Reporter-News and helped lead Harte-Hanks.