Clyde E. Palmer

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Clyde Eber Palmer (August 24, 1876 – July 4, 1957) was the owner of a chain of newspapers and radio stations and a television outlet covering southwestern Arkansas and part of northeastern Texas during the early to middle 20th century. He operated his media conglomerate from Texarkana, Texas.

Early years[edit]

Palmer was born to Mr. and Mrs. Eber Palmer in Spirit Lake, the seat of government of Dickinson County in northwestern Iowa near the Minnesota border. He began his journalism career in 1894, at the age of eighteen, as a stenographer at the then Texarkana Gazette and News.

In 1909, Palmer and his second wife, Bettie (1889-1974), were on their honeymoon and traveling by railway from Fort Worth to Florida. They stopped in Texarkana and decided to stay a few days in Palmer's former city of residence. Before they resumed their trip, Palmer purchased for $900 the Texarkana Courier, one of several newspapers then in existence in the Texas-Arkansas border city.

Building a newspaper chain[edit]

Over the years, Palmer consolidated the rival papers into the Texarkana Gazette, his personal favorite of all the newspapers that he would own or co-own. An ambitious businessman, Palmer thereafter acquired the News and Times, since the News-Times in El Dorado, the Hot Springs New Era and Sentinel Record, and The Camden News in Camden in Ouachita County. He became co-publisher of the Hope Star in Hope in Hempstead County, and the Magnolia Banner-News in Columbia County. Palmer also had an interest in newspapers in Stephens in southern Ouachita County, Stuttgart in Arkansas County, and Russellville in Pope County.

In 1912, Palmer renamed the Courier as the Four States Press, a reference to the general circulation areas of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. In 1933, the same year that he ventured into radio, Palmer finally managed the purchase of the Texarkana Gazette, which was founded in 1875, a year before his own birth. The Gazette is a morning newspaper. The former Texarkana Daily News was the Gazette's companion afternoon daily until it ceased publication in 1978.

A number afternoon newspapers ceased in the latter twentieth century, including publications in Tulsa, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and even Dallas, as readers demonstrated an increasing preference for a morning paper.

Palmer's Texarkana Gazette still circulates in Bowie, Red River, Morris, Marion, Titus, and Cass counties in Texas and Miller, Little River, Hempstead, Nevada, Howard, Sevier, Pike and Columbia counties in Arkansas. Newspapers are also delivered into McCurtain County, Oklahoma, and northern Caddo Parish in Louisiana.

The Texarkana Gazette has more than 130 employees and some 120 independent carriers that deliver newspapers in a 60-mile radius. The average circulation is about 34,000 daily.

Palmer determined that the key to newspaper success was (1) the readers, (2) the advertisers, (3) the employees, (4) the creditors, and (5) the stockholders, in that order.

Palmer technological innovations[edit]

Palmer Newspapers led in technological innovations over the decades:

1. The teletypesetter circuit.

2. Facsimile transmissions by microwave.

3. Cold type composition, rather than hot metal.

4. Offset lithography printing.

5. Spot color on a news photograph. This was first used in 1946 by the Texarkana Daily News, which depicted a red flashlight found at the scene of a murder.

6. High speed telegraph service (1930).

7. First automatic teletypesetter circuits to connect a group of newspapers (1942). In the midst of World War II, when there was a shortage of skilled newspaper employees, the "Palmer Circuit" enabled his six newspapers to pool news items without having to hire additional staff. This idea was thereafter copied by other chains and press associations.

Palmer was one of the first Arkansas companies to provide (1) group major medical benefits for its employees and one of the first newspaper chains in the American South to provide (2) a profit-sharing plan for employee retirement to supplement Social Security.

Radio and television[edit]

In 1933, Palmer launched the first of his radio stations in Texarkana. Other outlets followed in Hot Springs and Camden.

Over the years, his interest extended to television. In 1953, he launched a CBS affiliate in Texarkana called KCMC-TV. At the time there were no stations in Shreveport, some seventy miles to the south. In 1954, another CBS station, KSLA-TV (for Shreveport, LA), opened in Shreveport. In 1961, four years after Palmer's death, KCMC switched from CBS to NBC), and the call letters were changed to KTAL-TV (for Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana). The previous NBC station in Shreveport, KTBS-TV, joined ABC. Therefore, both cities for the first time had access to the three major networks. This was in the period before independent stations and widespread cable operations began to emerge. A new tower was built for KTAL in Vivian in northern Caddo Parish. At that time it was the second-tallest television tower in the South and provided a clear signal in both markets.

The Palmer companies[edit]

The Palmers' daughter Betty (1911-1990) attended college at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where she met Walter E. Hussman, Sr. (1906-1988), in the School of Journalism. The couple married in 1931. They had two daughters and a son. Hussman first sold insurance until he went to work for his father-in-law in the newspaper business.

Hussman entered the military during the war. On his return, he sought to purchase the Midland Reporter-Telegram in Midland in west Texas. Palmer instead offered to sell The Camden News to his son-in-law.

On Palmer's death, his wife, Bettie Palmer, and daughter, Betty Hussman, inherited most of the stock in the company. Through a reorganization in 1968, the Camden News technically became the parent company of Palmer operations. Hussman became head of the firm that published the then two Texarkana newspapers as well as the other Palmer holdings.

In 1981, after a career that spanned more than fifty years, the senior Hussman retired. His son, Walter E. Hussman, Jr. (born 1947), joined the company in 1970 and was named president in 1981. Hussman, Jr., publishes the Palmer flagship newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, popularly referred to as the Democrat, in Little Rock, acquired in 1974. The Texarkana Gazette remains a subsidiary of WEHCO Media, an acronym of "Walter E. Hussman Company", which still publishes the other daily newspapers in Little Rock, Hot Springs, El Dorado, Camden, and Magnolia.

Palmer established the philanthropic Palmer Foundation in 1944. He was a member of the Masonic Texarkana Border Lodge.

Clyde and Bettie Palmer are interred at Texarkana. Palmer died on a July 4; his son-in-law, Walter Hussman, Sr., was buried on a July 4 thirty-one years after Palmer's passing.