For a quarter century, Archer Fullingim ran one of the best weekly newspaper in America. On the front page of every edition of The Kountze News was his column, "The Printer Fires With Both Barrels."
The Kountze News was the creation of Archer Fullingim.
He started the weekly newspaper in the town of Kountze in deep East Texas in 1950 and it lasted just a few years after he wrote his last column on February 27, 1975. Fullingim said he knew it was time to give it up when the paper companies stopped producing the 44X32 sheets he fed into his press. It was either modernize or quit, so Arch quit.
Fullingim was known for a couple of things. He gave Richard Nixon his everlasting nickname, “Tricky Dick,” in the 1950s. He waged a decades-long campaign to save The Big Thicket, a heavily wooded area of East Texas. And Fullingim was known for his weekly front-page column, “The Printer Fires With Both Barrels.”
Roy Hamric edited a book containing columns Arch Fullingim had written over his quarter century at The Kountze News. They are an inspiration. They begin with a contest to name the paper. There are columns about the “great collard green debate,” a discussion around town about the drawing of greens on the paper’s front page. (There was also a catfish, a guitar and an armadillo.)
We read the book recently (Archer Fullingim: A Country Editor’s View of Life) and recommend it to everyone. In the introduction, Arch tells Hamric what it takes to be a good country editor:
There’s a great field for people who want to go into country journalism, if they make up their minds they will not only write the news, but also will lead the people, will recognize injustices in the world. Anyone who goes into country journalism solely to make money is not only a phony, but a fool. And he’s a fool to go into weekly journalism if he’s afraid to express an opinion.
The Texas weekly editor must derive inspiration from himself. He can’t look to the dailies in Dallas, Houston or San Antonio. They are all super rich and super establishment.
The only formula for an editor to follow is simple: to tell the truth as he sees it, and not ride the fence. But most weekly newspapers hide, bury or reject enough real news each week for fear of ruffling feathers to make it a great newspaper.
That gives you an idea of what Arch Fullingim was all about. He was born in 1902 on a cotton farm near Decatur, Texas. He worked on newspapers around the state, enlisted in the Navy at the age of 40 in 1942 and served four years in the Pacific.
He first bought the Normangee Star, a small Texas weekly. He sold it three years later and bought a print shop that he moved to Kountze. He put out his first edition on September 14, 1950.
Archer Fullingim died in 1984.
Here are excerpts from columns through the years that Roy Hamric collected.
July 12, 1956: A Good Turn
I saw this old lady, slightly stooped, come into Bishop’s Café. She had walked all the way from Hardin County Hospital where she said her husband was ill with cancer. She ate a bite and then she wanted to buy a bottle of snuff.
It was after closing time for most stores, but Mrs. Bishop lit out after that bottle of snuff in her car, the old woman with her. She found the snuff at Crosby’s Super Market. Then Mrs. Bishop took the old lady back to the hospital. Mrs. Bishop came back with that shining look on her face that every person has when he does a good turn.
August 4, 1966 Freedoms That Should Be Lost
Every so often somebody comes in here and complains that we are losing our freedoms. Just giving them away. Every day…
So what I would like to do is ask all these perpetual gripers just what freedoms they have lost, freedoms that their fathers or their grandfathers had…Don’t be bashful, be specific…
Let’s quit beating around the bush and answer for them. Let’s name some of the so-called freedoms they have lost that seem to be hurting them most. They can no longer use the Bible in schools to propagate their particular brand of denominationalism, and impose their religion on children…
They complain unceasingly of federal control, but they go to Washington instead of Austin to get money for every improvement. They want the money without any strings attached. They want bridges, dams, deep-water ports, medical centers from the federal government.
They oppose state income taxes, corporation taxes, higher taxes on natural resources, hogtieing the state from paying higher teacher salaries, and building more schools. They preach states rights to no end and refuse to give their own state any right. Then when the state is unable or unwilling to provide the improvement its citizens demand, they go to the federal government.
We have lost some freedom. We have lost the freedom to discriminate against any American. We have lost the freedom to deny any American the right to attend any school of his choice, or to keep any American out of any hospital built with federal funds.
We have lost the freedom to segregate the armed forces. We have lost the freedom to keep anyone in economic slavery. We have lost the freedom to make the Negro bend the knee, bow down, to cow him to get off the sidewalk. Is that the kind of freedom we have lost that is burning us up?….
August 11, 1966: Newspapermen & Novels
After 40 years I know what I like most. I like people.
I love people because they go on trips, cook big dinners, catch fish, get married, get divorced, get rich or stay poor. I am always looking for the story in every person, and I think every person has a story.
When I first started out in the newspaper business, I thought that the big stories were about fires and crimes, as I had been taught, and I used to chase fires like mad. Then there were the political and business stories, and I liked the political stories best. But since I have been in Kountze I like people stories, what they do, what they think, what they eat, what they talk about.
December 25, 1969: Yarborough, Youth and Nixon
I’d rather listen to some youthful views than those of some people now in their 40s and 50s and up; also those ever present experts in their 30s. These people can tell you how it was in World War I and World War II. But I’d rather listen to the younger generation, and most of them in college, too, who say, “Yes, yes, yes, man you know all about patriotism. You won World War II and the cold war and the Korean War, but where have you got us? …..
Don’t talk to me of Agnew and Nixon; I’m with the young who want to save the world from itself, not blow it up or smother it to death.
You say, but I’m against those damn demonstrators. Everything we ever got in this country was through demonstrations. Did you know that in 1776 the safe souls in America, the Agnew and Nixon types, looked upon Patrick Henry as Agnew looks upon the Black Panthers? What we need in this country is more demonstrations, not less, more long hair and thicker sideburns and less squares who want the country to continue on its present merry way to a living death in garbage, pollution and famine.
November 29, 1973: Rely on People, Not Things
Most of my life I lived without electricity and gas. Out on the farm in Cottle County we had coal oil lamps, and our mode of transportation was via wagon or horseback. I never entertained the idea of making a long weekend trip.
People stayed put the first 25 years of this century, and they’d be better off if they stayed put now. You can call me an old fogey or in my dotage, but I have lived through both times, and I think people were happier when they didn’t have to go to Rayburn Lake every weekend, or to Toledo Bend, or Parkdale Mall, or use spray cans.
When I was a teenager there was no such thing as a radio, let along TV. What did we do to pass the time? We worked in the fields all day and at night we stayed home except on Saturday when we went to a singing or a party. We relied on people, our association with them, to give us a good feeling. Nowadays, people don’t rely on people, because they don’t really love people. They rely on things, gadgets, gimmicks, not people.
So I rather welcome the shortages. I predict we are going to learn a lot about ourselves, our country and our economy in the next decade. It may be that I’ll eventually have to start rustling wood for my beautiful fireplace. I’d welcome that, too.