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In Memory of Bill Hartman May 12, 2021

Posted by Mia Moody-Ramirez in : Uncategorized , trackback

By David McHam


I was working at The Houston Post in the summer of 1961 when Baylor approached me about teaching. As the discussions continued, someone suggested that I visit Fred Hartman to talk about the situation.

Hartman was the editor and publisher of The Baytown Sun. He was the leader of a group of journalists who had studied under Dr. Charles Johnson at Baylor in the late 1920s and early ’30s. He continued to be involved in the journalism program.

On a Friday, I made the trek from Houston to Baytown to meet with Hartman. He was delightful and our meeting went well. As noon approached, he asked the managing editor to take me to lunch.

The managing editor was James Hale, a Baylor journalism graduate and later the publisher of several major newspapers. Hale brought a young man along with us. His name was Bill Hartman.

Turns out that Bill was the incoming editor of The Baylor Lariat. The job Baylor was talking with me about included being the adviser to The Lariat.

Until then, no faculty member had ever been in that position.

Bill and I talked that day about what that arrangement entailed.

I told him I wouldn’t read copy or censor anything. He said my advice would be welcomed. What a wonderful way to start a relationship!

And that’s the way it was during my first year at Baylor, 1961-62.

My success at Baylor in the 1960s can be attributed to the way that Bill accepted me and the way we worked together. He set an example for others to follow.

By the way, at our first meeting, I was just about to turn 29, and he was just about to turn 21.

And we became friends. Not just casual friends, but real friends.

At some point, Carmage Walls had moved from Alabama and bought The Baytown Sun. He was very fond of Bill, and when Bill graduated, Walls bought a weekly newspaper in LaPorte for Bill to run. He also bought him a horse.

The Jefferson Standard, primarily an insurance company, bought The Beaumont Enterprise. These were two newspapers, morning and afternoon. They asked Walls to help them find an editor and publisher.

Walls suggested Bill Hartman. He was not yet 30. No one from the Jefferson Standard actually saw Bill in person. Until, that is, the first company meeting in Charlotte several months later. The Beaumont Enterprise was doing quite well, but the bigwigs at the insurance company were surprised at how young their editor was.

Eventually, Bill left Beaumont and bought a newspaper in Richmond/Rosenberg, The Fort Bend Herald. Then, one by one, he bought more papers, until the number reached 12.  When Bill’s sons, Fred and Lee, came of age, they joined the operation.

Fred, like his dad, was editor of The Baylor Lariat. Lee played golf. After a while, their sister, Elizabeth, joined them until she went into real estate.

Bill loved life and lived it fully. For years, he took the family to The Masters, even rented a house for them.  He was president of the Houston chapter of the major league baseball writers. He attended Colt .45s/Astros games from the inception of the team in 1962 until the Covid-19 pandemic.

And he owned horses until age caught up with him.

Bill broke his leg in early 2020. It was a leg he had first had trouble with when he was in high school. It didn’t heal in spite of two operations.

Then he fell again, and they discovered he had other problems.  He was in an assisted living facility in Sugar Land when he got pneumonia. He died on May 3. He would have been 80 this coming July.

For the last 20 years, we had lunch together as often as we could.

He never let me pay. At my birthday party a few years ago, Bill sneaked out and tried to pay for the whole thing. Luckily, that had already been taken care of.

He was a wonderful talker and a great storyteller. We enjoyed each other’s company. What started in the fall of 1961 lasted until 2021.

I am happy for our long friendship, but sad that it has come to an end.

Bill did leave an important gift to Baylor. Mr. Walls and he financed the Fred Hartman Chair in journalism, designed to bring a veteran journalist to teach and paying for them. It will be a legacy that lives on.

As will his memory.


A footnote: Bill graduated from Baylor in three years with a double major in business and journalism. That last summer, 1962, he needed a class in journalism the same time as a business class he had to take. In those days you simply wrote on a form; no computers to check you. So, I agreed to teach him editing by conference.  We met every day for lunch at George’s.  George’s was a restaurant across from the Baylor press on eighth street.

At the end of the summer, I gave him a “B” in the course. I don’t know why. Perhaps I had a reason at the time.  He was surprised.

About 10 years ago, Bill was invited to speak to the faculty of the journalism department. He started by saying that he was there to complain about the grade I had given him 50 years earlier.


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