James Roberts

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James Roberts

Andrews County News

Hall of Fame Class of 2007

James Roberts was the consummate West Texas newspaper publisher, civic leader and mentor of a whole generation of Texas publishers.

Roberts was publisher of the Andrews County News and chairman of Roberts Publishing Company,  which at the time of his death in December 1997 was owner of newspapers in Andrews, Azle, Brownfield, Copperas Cove, Gatesville, Granbury, Hereford, Lamesa, Quanah, Seminole, Springtown, Snyder and Vernon.

Born in the tiny town of Toyah in 1923, he and his parents moved to Andrews in 1934 at the height of the Depression.

As a 12-year-old, James Roberts hand-spiked type alongside his mother, Lena Brownlee Roberts, at the Andrews County News, the family weekly founded in 1934 by his father, Charles Roberts Sr.

He attended Texas Tech University and was drafted into the U.S. Army in World War II. Following a stint as a walking infantryman in the 45th Division, he was wounded and captured by enemy forces at Anzio. He was held as a prisoner of war of the Germans for 53 weeks. He married the former Marie Holman in 1946 and they had two sons.

Roberts became editor of the family newspaper in 1950 following graduation from Baylor University. He was president of the West Texas Press Association in 1961-62.

From 1970 to 1980, as president of Roberts Publishing Company, he put together a group of 15 daily and weekly newspapers in West Texas that provided each individual publisher with a strong incentive to put down tap roots and become involved in community affairs. In doing so, he not only enriched the communities in which these publishers worked, but also provided a pool of leadership that has guided regional, state and national newspaper associations for decades.

Roberts served as president of the Texas Press Association in 1980-81. His column, Drifting Sands, appeared on the front page of every edition of the Andrews County News for 47 years.
His own course in life, however, was anything but drifting. He was an important and thoughtful local leader and one of the community's strongest boosters.

A legendary civic leader, Roberts was instrumental in building a community hospital and bringing new business and industry to his county. He tried for a dozen years, unsuccessfully, to bring about the building of a short trunk railroad line to serve his community and stimulate manufacturing. As president of the Andrews Industrial Foundation, he attracted Fortune 500 businesses to Andrews, to diversify an economy once dependent on the financial fluctuations in the domestic oil industry. With strong community ties, he was a member of the First Baptist Church, served two terms as president of the Andrews Chamber of Commerce, and a 12-year presidency of the Permian Basin Railroad Co. He earned early recognition as Andrews' Outstanding Citizen.

He worked closely with the publishers with all of his newspapers to instill and foster in them a strong sense of civic duty and pride in the communities they served.

James Roberts was inducted into the inaugural class of the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame in 2007.