Stanley Walker, the boy from Llano who hit it big in the Big Apple as editor of the New York Herald, said, “People make a mistake to rate the so-called Texas character too highly. There have been some wonderful Texans, but the general Texans have little to brag about. The state was settled mostly by second-rate folks on the lam from Tennessee. What can you expect from such people?”
Walker records this quote of his Uncle Ernest Hubbard in his book “Home to Texas.”
Walker wrote other entertaining books but his best writing was about his old home place northeast of Lampasas. He died in 1962 where he spent his last few years in retirement – at home in Texas. He got out of Texas early, but Texas was never out of him. He showed New York City the class of the Lone Star State.
After attending the University of Texas, studying journalism, Walker worked as a reporter on the Austin American and later the Dallas Morning News. In 1920, he was a reporter for the New York Herald, which later became the New York Herald Tribune.
By 1928 he was appointed city editor, becoming in the meantime one of the best at his craft. His views became required reading in some journalism schools according to the Handbook of Texas.
Walker resigned from the Herald Tri-bune to be the managing editor of William Ran-dolph Hearst’s New York Mir-ror. His nonchalant, cynical view of life came alive in his book “Mrs. Astor’s House,” which enlarged the image of newspaper men of the 1920s and 1930s. Makes me think his style of writing and life led to stereotype of newspaper editors by Hollywood.
He wrote for the New Yorker and the Columbia Broadcasting Company, which had a daytime newspaper of the air, mainly for women listeners, In the 1940s he wrote promotional books for the Republican presidential candidate, Thomas E. Dewey (At a time when Texas was a Democratic state.)
His wife of 20 years, Mary Louise Sandefer, died in 1944. They had a son and a daughter.
As the Second World War ended, so did his years in New York. He was a country boy from Texas and was never enthralled with the big city.
He and his second wife Ruth Howell, returned Texas so he could get the feel of the “real” earth, raising livestock, gardening and writing for magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post.
Those who knew him saw his interest in being in the company of politicians, while at the same time he was very skeptical of political parties. He admitted to “harping on the defects” of Texas but insisted he loved the state and found returning home to be good.
“Never argue with a fool. Sometimes the temptation is almost unbearable, but don’t do it. You will gain nothing, and you will only make yourself look foolish” (“Going Home to Texas”).
Clay Coppedge, writing in TexasEscapes.com, relates how Walker’s lifelong interest in journalism was planted by his grandfather, who often sent young Walker out on a walk and to report back what he had seen.
“Once, when the grandfather asked Walker what he had seen and the boy replied ‘I didn’t see nothin,’ his grandfather replied that the boy must have seen something – birds, a new calf, trees. He told Walker, ‘Don’t ever come back here and tell me you saw nothing.’”
Walker learned fast.
As an editor he would ask his reporters what they had seen. Clay writes, “As far as anyone knows, none of them ever told him they hadn’t seen anything.”
He came along as Mark Twain passed off the scene and wrote in the era of Will Rogers. His makeup had a little of both these men.
He expressed himself in colorful ways: “The prettiest sight in the world is a big bunch of white-faced calves on a rich pasture. Next is a pretty redheaded girl in a green dress.”
Britt Towery, a Brownwood native, now lives in San Angelo. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.