Yep, I have thought about switching rather than fighting on several occasions.
Bob Hardesty and the influence of his padrone, one Lyndon Baines Johnson, derailed my sidetrack train toward another branch line of journalism, thus pushing me into the community newspaper business, where I belonged.
Of course, that requires a little background. You knew that was coming from an old storyteller, huh?
Those who’ve followed Texas politics for the past 50 years know about Robert L. Hardesty.
Much of his early public service and exposure began in the 1950s and took off in the early 1960s when his fellow Southwest Texas State University alumnus, LBJ, harnessed Hardesty’s considerable talents. He became a speechwriter and legislative affairs assistant.
In addition to serving the President, Hardesty served three terms on the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service and is credited with making a lot changes that helped modernize the Postal Service, cut costs and improve efficiency.
When you bag those kinds of jobs, folks, you gain some stroke, lots of it.
Along came one of those opportunities to leave the newspaper business yet take advantage of the skills and knowledge I’d gained that would apply in an educational atmosphere, something I’d always yearned for.
The job was director of public information for the University of Texas System. I was tipped off to the job by a friend and began putting together a resume and an application.
Naturally, the UT System, headquartered in Austin, is greatly influenced at times by powerful and prominent officeholders in the state capitol.
LO AND BEHOLD, my former FBI agent brother, Kerry, was employed by the Governor’s Office Department of Criminal Justice. One of the principal functions of that department was to assist various law enforcement agencies around the state in securing grants and other funding. That funding was to be used to improve and strengthen law enforcement at every level throughout the state.
One of the UT System officials was a graduate of Sam Houston State, where Kerry also graduated and where I’d attended two years before running out of money and taking a detour to a degree. The UT official was Vice Chancellor E. Don Walker (later to be chancellor). Through Kerry’s connections in the governor’s office, information was obtained pointing to Walker as the key to the job as director of information for the system.
Walker told Kerry and me that he liked my credentials and my Sam Houston connection, and was leaning my way for the extraordinarily well-paying job (compared to country newspapering) at UT.
Well, that propelled me into a premature celebratory Native American whoop and toe-heel dance around the “campfire.”
ENTER STAGE LEFT, one Bob Hardesty, anointed by even higher and more numerous powers that be, carrying the same college diploma seal as the ex-President of these United States. Power, privilege and friends in high places proved to be potent and blasted down my one top tier connection. That left me choking in Hardesty’s dust.
He took the job and it propelled him into the presidency at Southwest Texas State where he lived happily ever after. Apparently, he did a good job. SWT grew into a much bigger and better school in large part, I’m sure, to Hardesty’s lofty connections that always make funding public institutions properly much easier.
But, don’t feel sorry for this country editor-publisher-columnist.
I did alright and I’ve had and am still having a jim-dandy, cracker jack time. And, I didn’t need LBJ or other high muckety-mucks, just family and friends who believed in me. As it turned out, there were plenty of those and I’m richer for it.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.