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Houston Harte

Harte-Hanks Newspapers Inc.

Hall of Fame Class of 2015

Houston Harte was born at Knob Knoster, Missouri, in 1893. He attended the University of California for one year, returned to Missouri and graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1915.

He joined the Missouri Republican in Boonville, quickly became the newspaper’s business manager and moved up to editor and publisher. He joined the U.S. Army in 1918 and rose to the rank of captain before mustering out in 1920. He headed to Texas that year and purchased the San Angelo Evening Standard, later acquired the San Angelo Morning Times and merged the two into the San Angelo Standard-Times.

His newspaper was the first to report many important oil industry developments, such as the completion of Santa Rita No. 1 and the discovery of the Yates Oil Field, and the first to hire an oil editor. Harte was named to the Petroleum Hall of Fame in Midland, but when notified of the honor, he said, “I feel embarrassed about this. No newspaperman who is doing his job should be winning popularity contests.”

Harte met Bernard Hanks in 1927 at a newspaper meeting at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. The two partnered to purchase the Lubbock Plains Journal, converted it to daily publication and later acquired the Lubbock Avalanche, merging the two properties to create the Lubbock Avalanche Journal.

Harte-Hanks Newspapers Inc. went on to purchase interests in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, The Paris News, The Big Spring Herald and The Marshall News. Hanks died in 1948 and Harte lived until 1972. By that time, the corporation included 19 daily newspapers, including the San Antonio Express-News, and several non-daily newspapers with a combined circulation of more than 600,000 in six states. The corporation was rebranded Harte-Hanks Communications Inc. and became a major holder of newspapers, broadcast stations and direct mail services.

After Harte died, the company began to sell off properties, but the core of the newspaper group, the dailies in San Angelo, Abilene, Wichita Falls and Corpus Christi, held together and were the last to be divested, selling to the E.W. Scripps Company in 1997.

Harte was a major contributor toward the preservation of historic Fort Concho in San Angelo and of the development and expansion of San Angelo Junior College, now Angelo State University, where the Houston Harte University Center was named in his honor. A portion of U.S. Highway 67 in San Angelo is named the Houston Harte Expressway.

Harte was a member of the federal Relief Commission in the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He became a confidant of Lyndon B. Johnson during his tenure as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Their friendship continued through Johnson’s tenure in the U.S. Senate and the Johnson vice presidency and presidency. Harte wrote an award-winning book of Old Testament stories titled, “In Our Image,” published by Oxford University Press in 1949.