Fred V. Barbee
El Campo Leader-News
Hall of Fame Class of 2009
Fred V. Barbee Jr.’s entry into newspapering was a textbook example. He started out by throwing them. First the morning editions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and later in the day, his hometown newspaper, the Brownwood Bulletin. This was in 1940 when Fred was 12. And he was hooked. In no time at all, he was promoted to printer’s devil and janitor at the Bulletin. That was when he was 13. It was genetics; Fred’s father was mechanical superintendent at the Bulletin until his death in 1963.
After finishing school in Brownwood, this young printer’s devil earned his BBA from The University of Texas at Austin in 1951. During his senior year, Barbee managed to marry Eleanor McColl of Brownwood who worked with him side by side at various newspapers and radio stations until her death in 1980.
While at The University, Barbee worked his way through school as a printer at the University Press printing The Daily Texan five nights a week. After graduating he also worked at the San Antonio Light.
Barbee left Austin in 1952 to work in the advertising department of the Miami (Okla.) News-Record.
As a student in Brownwood and at UT, his work had caught the eye of C.C. Woodson, owner of Brownwood and other newspapers, who told the young man to go west to publish the six-day Lamesa Daily Reporter. Barbee was 23, and already an 11-year veteran in the newspaper business. And he must have done a pretty good job because he held the position in Lamesa until 1957.
From 1957 to 1968 he was publisher and co-owner with C.C. Woodson of the Seminole Sentinel and co-owner and operator of Radio Station KTFO in Seminole from 1960 to 1968.
In 1968 he went into partnership with UT roommate Dick Elam in properties in El Campo and nearby environs. That included president and co-owner of Bar-B Broadcasting in El Campo (Radio Station KULP); co-owner of the El Campo Leader-News; the Wharton Journal-Spectator; the East Bernard Express and former co-owner of the Edna Herald and Ganado Tribune until they were sold in 1982.
Barbee also found time to give something back to the profession that chose him. He was president of the Texas Press Association (1978-79), West Texas Press Association (1967-68), South Texas Press Association (1985-86), Texas Gulf Coast Press Association (1975-76) and an active member of both the National Newspaper Association and the American Newspaper Publishers Association.
Throughout his career, Fred found time for his alma mater and lent his time and talent toward helping future newspaper men and women. He served on the Advisory Council of the College of Communication Foundation at UT-Austin from 1980-87 (with a one year hiatus) and served as chairman in 1984-85.
In El Campo, he was busy with a host of civic organizations: past president of the Rotary Club where he was a Paul Harris Fellow with 38 years of perfect attendance; served as board member of the El Campo Chamber of Commerce; board of the El Campo Economic Development Corporation, the Wharton County Historical Museum and El Campo Memorial Hospital.
Born Oct. 28, 1928 in Cleburne, he died Oct. 2, 2007, in El Campo. Barbee was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2009 as one of four members of the Hall’s third class of honorees