The death of Dr. C. Richard (Dick) King on Friday leaves a vacancy in this community. His generous giving of his time and money made a real difference in Stephenville and the Cross Timbers area.
My acquaintance with Dick occurred in a most unique way. This story begins early in 1954, when I was a reporter on The Abilene Reporter-News.
I was in the midst of writing a master degree thesis at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. The thesis’ topic was, “A Study of High School Newspapers in Texas.” Some of the data I was seeking were in the files of the University Interscholastic League (UIL) at the University of Texas in Austin. I had been unable to gain access to the needed material.
In desperation, I wrote Dr. Dewitt Reddick, then Dean of the School of Journalism at UT in Austin, explaining my problem and asking if he could help. Dr. Reddick immediately responded, saying the material would be forthcoming. The data arrived in a couple of days, and I was able to complete the thesis and receive the graduate degree in August, 1954.
I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Reddick. As an undergraduate journalism student at Baylor University, I recall one of his textbooks was used in a journalism course, and later when I taught high school journalism courses, I used another of his textbooks.
In September, 1954, Ann, Brad and I moved to Stephenville. I had accepted the job as director of public information and assistant professor of journalism at Tarleton State College (now University).
During the summer of 1956, my office telephone rang one morning. The caller was Dr. Reddick. The conversation went something like this -
“Stuart, this is DeWitt Reddick at the University of Texas.”
I was surprised. Why would Dr. Reddick be calling me?
I quickly responded, “Yes sir. How are you, Dr. Reddick?”
“I’m fine. Stuart, I need a little help.”
“Yes sir, I owe you one after the assistance you gave me in obtaining data from the UIL.”
Dr. Reddick inquired, “Do you know Dr. Dick King?”
I replied, “I don’t personally know him, but I’ve heard a number of people on campus say good things about him. I feel like I know him.”
Then Dr. Reddick said, “Stuart, Dr. King has applied for a position on the journalism faculty here, and he has two references at Tarleton I want you to check for me. They are President E.J. Howell and Miss Dollie Marie Glover.”
At that time, Miss Glover was a professor of English and acting head of the department. Dick graduated from John Tarleton Agricultural College in the 1940s, and later was on the Tarleton faculty. He held bachelor and master degrees from the University of Oklahoma and the doctorate from Baylor University.
Dr.Reddick continued, “You can save me some time in contacting these two individuals. I’m facing a deadline in employing Dr. King at UT.”
I contacted President Howell and Miss Glover. Both gave Dick good recommendations. Later that day, I phoned Dr. Reddick, giving him the information I had gathered. Dick got the job. He would serve 26 years on the UT journalism faculty.
A short time later, I met Dick on campus. I did not mention this event to him, and I don’t think he knew Dr. Reddick had called me. Years later, I related this instance to Dick, and he was most appreciative.
He was a fourth-generation Texan, and a prolific writer. He authored 18 books - mostly dealing with Texas history. He probably wrote more books than anyone, who ever lived in Stephenville. I had the privilege to read proof on one of his books in 1998. The book was entitled, Golden Days of Purple and White: The John Tarleton College Story.” Dick penned these words in the front of my book - “Many, many thanks for your help in reading proof and in promoting this book. I sincerely hope you enjoy it. C. Richard King 1998.” I also have another of his books in my personal library - The Pride of Stephenville: A Story of the Stephenville Lions Club. His inscription reads, “Read, enjoy and remember …. C. Richard King February, 1998.”
His gifts through the years to the Stephenville Historical Museum, the First United Methodist Church, the Stephenville Masonic Lodge, Tarleton State University, the American Legion and other organizations in the city have benefited Stephenville. He made a positive difference.
He was born in Gorman in 1924, and moved to Stephenville in 1929. Graduating from Stephenville High School in 1942, he later served during World War II in the U.S. Army in Europe.
Dick was the type of journalist editors often seek and seldom find. He was accurate, dedicated and sincerely believed in the merits of journalism.
Dr. Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville. He occasionally writes for this newspaper.