consolidation of the Tri-Cities isn't the only merger of a threesome
in local history.
Before voters approved the charter for their new city of Baytown
in 1948, three newspapers in 1931 consolidated in the Tri-Cities.
These newspapers covered the waterfront with locations in Goose
Involved in the merger were the Pelly Telegram, owned by Joe Noland;
the Goose Creek Tribune, owned by Herman Bell; and the Baytown News-Herald,
owned by the Tribune and run by J.S. Ott.
A fourth publication, the Democrat, existed then, but owner Chris
Myers chose not to participate in the merger.
The reason for combining the three newspapers was similar to what
would motivate the consolidation of the Tri-Cities years later.
From an organizational standpoint, it made more sense for these
newspapers to pool their resources, just as the one city, evolving
from consolidation, was able to pool talent and experience from
employees from the Tri-Cities.
The newspaper merger was based on other factors, too, such as the
fact that advertisers preferred buying ads in one newspaper with
a widespread readership.. And the readers liked the convenience
of buying one newspaper with an overview of news in the area.
However, all those efforts to blend three newspapers into one would
have been for naught if the final product turned out to be average
or below. The new newspaper had to be bigger and better than any
of the previous publications had been, and it would require highly
The new era began with the arrival of W.L. Pendergraft, formerly
of the Houston Post, and Robert W. "Bob" Matherne, a Beaumont
newsman and syndicated writer for the Newspaper Enterprise Association.
Again, to compare the newspaper history with that of consolidated
Baytown, Pendergraft and Matherne were the prototypes of a future
city manager, Bill Taylor, the municipal government expert hired
to steer consolidated Baytown in the right direction.
Pendergraft and Matherne were experts in their field, too, and the
newly formed Peoples Printing Co., composed of local business leaders,
hired them to steer the consolidated newspaper in the right direction.
named it the Tri-Cities Sun and the first issue, after three weeks
of reorganization, rolled off the press on July 19, 1931. Sun staffers
headquartered where the Goose Creek Tribune had operated - at the
corner of West Pearce and South Ashbel.
Initially, Pendergraft started out on the business side while Matherne
had charge of the newsroom. As time went by, the versatile pair
reversed their roles - Pendergraft in the newsroom, Matherne in
the business office - but, the fact was, they could be found running
the show, as needed, in any department. They were everywhere.
Every issue had their fingerprints all over it.
In 1935 they reached across the Houston Ship Channel and persuaded
Fred Hartman to leave Sparky Bond's newspaper in La
Porte and come to work at the Tri-Cities Sun.
Hartman proved to be as versatile as the Pendergraft/Matherne team,
with his business savvy and the ability to report, write and edit.
After graduating from Baylor University in 1929, Hartman was an
instructor in the journalism department, business manager of the
Baylor Student Publications and director of athletic publicity.
He left the campus to work for the Wichita Daily Times and the Vernon
Record, but returned to Baylor to earn a master's degree. A few
years later, he graduated from the Houston Law School but never
pursued a legal career. At the Tri-Cities Sun, he handled two jobs:
circulation manager and sports editor.
name change from Tri-Cities Sun to Daily Sun was made in 1933 and
the press continued to roll as the Daily Sun until a year after
Baytown consolidation. Since 1949 it has published under the name,
The Baytown Sun.
Pendergraft retired in 1944, selling his interest in the Tri-Cities
Sun to Matherne, and Hartman was promoted to editor.
When Matherne retired from the newspaper in 1950 to focus on his
office supply business, he sold his interest to business tycoon
Carmage Walls on one provision - that Hartman would serve as the
editor and publisher. Fortunately for The Baytown Sun and Baytown,
The guiding light at The Sun, Hartman won respect for his managerial
skills as well as his journalistic talents. Employees never called
him Fred; he was Mr. Hartman, also known as The Leader. During his
reign, The Sun saw many changes and advances, including a new building
on Memorial Drive in 1965.
Hartman continued to run the newspaper until 1974 when his position
as chairman of the board of Southern Newspapers Inc. dominated his
schedule. He was succeeded as editor and publisher by his son-in-law,
Hartman retired from Southern Newspapers in 1983 and died in 1991
on July 28, only a few days after The Sun marked its 60th anniversary.
19, 1931, was chosen for the anniversary date because that was the
beginning of a new era -- when Pendergraft and Matherne took charge.
The history of The Sun, however, goes back to 1918 when Frank Boyer
founded the Goose Creek Gasser, a semiweekly. In 1924 Boyer sold
the newspaper to Herman Bell, who renamed it the Goose Creek Tribune
and in 1928 turned it into a daily. After doing business in several
locations, the Tribune found a long-lasting home on West Pearce.
Publishers since Leon Brown have been Gary Dobbs, Wanda Cash, Cliff
Clements and the current publisher, Janie Gray.
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
1, 2018 column