by nature a cynical lot. And because they've seen humanity at its worst, they
have few heroes.
of them died in Tyler last month.
Dr. Blanche Prejean, who instilled in thousands of aspiring journalists a love
of words, was 92. She served as the former chairman of Tyler Junior College's
Department of Journalism, and the first woman to earn a journalism doctorate from
the University of Texas.
the way, she taught her students how to construct sentences, how to develop an
awareness of what constitutes news, and how to earn a journalist's job.
native of Paris, Texas, she came to the Tyler campus in 1952 from a sawmill high
school in Angelina County.
only qualifications she had in teaching journalism was the experience she picked
up while teaching Diboll high school students English and how to create a student
newspaper and a yearbook.
Tyler Junior College, which had just moved to a new campus on Fifth Street, she
developed one of the best college journalism departments in Texas.
University of Texas tried on several occasions to lure her to Austin, but she
and her husband Buck, who coached Tyler High School's Lions to a state championship,
had found a permanent home in East Texas.
students came to Tyler because she was acknowledged as the best writing teacher
in East Texas. Many of them came from small-town schools in East Texas and if
they needed financial help, she located jobs for them in Tyler. If they wanted
to pursue their education after two years on the TJC campus, she found scholarships.
became some of the best journalists in Texas. Some graduated to editorships, some
became public relations practitioners, some became newspaper and magazine publishers,
and some became book authors.
of them forgot Blanche and what she taught them. But her death went largely unreported
beyond Tyler, and only a handful of her students were present for the funeral.
a student wanted to be a newspaper reporter, a television journalist, a magazine
editor, or a novelist, she had the same advice.
you want to be, always write so that even a person without a high school education
can understand you," she said.
also had another piece of advice: "The first line you write must make the reader
want to read more." That, she said, is "the lead of your story."
Years later, one of her former students wrote a novel about a Texas lawman. Reminded
of Blanche's advice, he began his novel with: "My mother was a whore."
All Things Historical
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Bowman, a former president of the East Texas Historical Association, is the author
of 24 books on East Texas history and folklore. He lives in Lufkin.)