A nearly forgotten newsmagazine connected Texans in the 1940s

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Michael Barnes

Welcome to Think, Texas a weekly column about Texas history.

To a certain extent, Raymond and Dorothy Holbrook lived charmed lives.

Based in Dallas for much of his career in journalism, Raymond reported on and socialized with many of the big names of the day.

At first a radio journalist, Dorothy wrote short stories and inspirational sayings for popular magazines while working at the office of the United Nations Association in Dallas.

The couple, who raised three children, loved projects.

And no project was bigger than Texas Week.

Long before Texas Monthly arrived in the 1970s, this statewide newsmagazine attempted to become the Time or Life magazine of Texas news and culture. Regional but sophisticated, it only lasted for 28 issues from 1946 to 1947, but it published the work of some of the best reporters and writers in Texas, all colleagues or friends of the Holbrooks.

Here’s the best news for Texas history buffs: All of the Texas Week issues are now available for free at the digital Portal to Texas History.

For that, we can thank their children, Ann Holbrook-Willis, Marion Holbrook and Winfield “Ray” Holbrook, who have gone well beyond filial duty to a family legacy in order to lend us a thick slice of Texas in the 1940s, one that, behind the scenes, starred their charismatic parents.

The Crume connection

Stylish and vibrant in photos from the midcentury, Dorothy Holbrook looks like one of those smart, wise-cracking Hollywood stars of the period: Katharine Hepburn in “Woman of the Year” or Eve Arden in “Mildred Pierce.”

Understated in uniform during World War II, Raymond Holbrook looks every bit the military analyst that he was. In later pictures, he appears more dapper, avuncular and professorial: Your favorite editor from “Front Page,” or maybe your quirky journalism teacher.

How did I stumble on this fascinating couple?

In 2013, I wrote about a columnist, Paul Crume, who covered Dallas humorously during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s at a time when almost everyone believed that urbane Big D was going to be the New York City of the South and Southwest.

“I enjoyed the article you shared about Paul Crume,” Ann Holbrook wrote to me in June of this year. “I found it exciting and familiar but did not know why. When I mentioned the article to my sister, Marion, she reminded me that our parents and Paul were lifelong friends.”

Raymond and Paul had met while at the University of Texas. They worked on the Daily Texan newspaper together in the mid-1930s. After the war, while Raymond’s Austin-based Texas Week newsmagazine was coming out, Crume acted as a special correspondent from the Dallas area. The two men reconnected in Dallas during the time Raymond reported for the Associated Press from 1951 to 1976.

“Over those years, Raymond and Paul continued to stay in touch while working on journalistic projects and enjoying each other’s personalities at the Dallas Press Club,” Ann says. “Meanwhile, Dorothy often created sassy comments about the social life in Dallas, sharing them with Paul. He would then publish her comments in his Big D column. Dorothy chose to use the pseudonym of Dee Brooks. I remember my parents laughing about a story Paul had written on many mornings. It was their way to start the day.”

A meeting in Amarillo

Born in 1911, Dorothy Hopper Holbrook met her future husband in Amarillo. Raymond served as a reporter for the Amarillo News at the time, while Dorothy was the “Morning Voice” on a local radio station. They married in 1939.

“Dorothy was a feminist before the movement started,” Ann says. “In 1938, she left her hometown of Chicago and drove 1,000 miles to Amarillo. We do not know how she heard about the job. There, she reported on the local news — births, deaths and livestock — also on national events.”

Later Dorothy made a nice side living by writing for the popular magazines of the day.

For most of the 1960s, however, Dorothy worked full time as recording secretary for the Dallas office of the United Nations Association, interacting with bigwigs such as Judge Sarah T. Hughes, Stanley Marcus, Ray Nasher and Henry Lanz.

“I was able to meet everyone at several United Nations events,” Ann says. “Even though Raymond and Dorothy were both writers, they did not compete, nor did they support each other. They separated just a few weeks after I left for college. We weren’t surprised. But what did surprise us was, once they separated, we saw each of their own sweet, funny personalities bloom, and we got to know them as adults.”

Raymond died in 1984; Dorothy in 1997.

A Texas newsman

In June, Marion Holbrook lovingly summarized her father’s career in a memoir titled “A Texas Newsman.”

Some of the memoir consists of family stories, but she and her siblings also learned a lot when they combed through boxes of papers their father had left behind from his career with AP.

“My dad, Raymond B. Holbrook, was – first and foremost – a newsman in an era when the word ‘newsman’ summoned up visions of a crusader, a truth seeker and a hero,” Marion writes. “He lived and breathed the news business until his last headline on Friday, Aug. 10, 1984: ‘Veteran Texas Newsman and Educator Dies.’”

Raymond reported on every president from Franklin Delano Roosevelt onward. Though he rarely talked about it with his children, he reported extensively on the assassination of President John Kennedy in 1963.

Born in 1914, Raymond attended military school, served in the Marines and spent 50 years writing, editing and managing newspapers while also teaching journalism. His first beat was “day reporter” for the Daily Texan at UT in 1933.

“But for a man who dedicated his life to reporting the news, Dad revealed very little about himself to his family or friends,” Marion writes. “Perhaps it was his West Texas upbringing where people don’t toot their own horn. Perhaps he thought his bylines would speak for themselves, although they only lasted a day in the newspaper, unlike a book on the shelf. Most likely, he didn’t see himself as part of the story — he was a newsman on the story to find out about others with his reporter’s mantra: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?”

Marion found out more about her father’s groundbreaking Texas Week magazine while cleaning out her garage.

“As I sorted through an old trunk, I found 21 issues of Texas Week wrapped in a blanket,” she writes. “They were still in pristine condition after 65 years. I was vaguely aware of the magazine but had never seen it. Dad had never mentioned the magazine in all the time I knew him. As a child, I had overheard my mom tell a friend that the magazine had been a failure and that Dad had never been the same since.”

Marion was thrilled by her find, but nervous. She carefully packed them in a plastic container and started doing research about what to do with them. At least one major university archive told her that the issues of Texas Week would be welcome, but they would not be easily accessible to the reading public.

Then in 2014, her husband discovered Portal to Texas History, a digital outlet generously populated by University of North Texas Libraries in Denton.

“Someone could now randomly search the internet for ‘Texas history’ and Texas Week could appear” in the results, Marion writes. “You didn’t have to already know the magazine existed to find it.”

UNT Libraries definitely wanted the magazine in their digital collection. They also discovered that full sets of the magazine – 28 issues – existed at a few Texas universities, including their own library.

As Marion points out, the magazine isn’t just good Texas history, it is impressive journalism: “The writing style was hard-hitting, sassy and easy to grasp, and there were pictures on every page. The cover featured a full-page picture of a real Texan under a splashy red banner.”

Raymond had amplified his knowledge of photography during his time in the Marine Corps while analyzing pictures of enemy movements. He was an experienced small-plane pilot and analyzed action on the ground from the air.

Edited by a young but already veteran journalist, Texas Week attempted to change the state by reporting everything that touched the “political, economic, cultural, and spiritual life” of Texas.

“They wanted to publicize the state’s exploding opportunities and to shine a bright light on things that hindered Texas,” Marion writes, “like corruption, segregation and poverty.”

Raymond and his friends, who put up the money for Texas Week, based its office in Austin so they could be within walking distance of the heart of Texas politics.

After the magazine collapsed, Raymond took job after job in the newspaper business — putting strains on the family — until AP offered him job security and a sense of rootedness in Dallas.

Their three children found themselves the occasional subjects of newspaper stories. They also got to meet the celebrities of the day, including a well-remembered brush with President Harry Truman backstage at the Adolphus Hotel after a speech. Marion met future President Richard Nixon and future first lady Pat Nixon at a Dallas gala fundraiser.

Raymond was quite active in the Press Club, often as leader, and he was always on the satirical Gridiron Show committee to help raise scholarship money.

After the Kennedy assassination, Dallas Associated Press became the center for sending out wire-service news to the world.