Ten journalists, two Lifetime Achievement Award winners, and 10 posthumous inductees will be honored during the special 50th anniversary gala and banquet of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.
POSTPONED!! New Date: Oct. 9 at 6 p.m.
The gala will be at 6 p.m. Friday, April 24, at the Oklahoma History Center.
“The 50th anniversary gives us an opportunity to celebrate the many historic accomplishments of journalists who have made an impact in Oklahoma and nationwide,” said Joe Hight, director. and Edith Kinney Gaylord Endowed Chair of Journalism Ethics at the University of Central Oklahoma.
“To help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the hall, the selection committee decided to not only have a regular class of 10 inductees but to honor 10 posthumously for only the second time in the hall’s history.”
The hall of fame inductees are:
- Clytie Bunyan, director of Business & Lifestyles at The Oklahoman;
- Al Eschbach, longtime reporter, sports director and talk radio host on WWLS;
- Rusty Ferguson, publisher of The Cleveland American, The Hominy News-Progress, and owner of the Pawnee Chief;
- Lori Fullbright, longtime reporter for KOTV/Tulsa News on 6;
- Rochelle Hines, 22-year reporter for The Associated Press;
- Michael McNutt, reporter and editor for more than 30 years at The Oklahoman;
- Michael Sims, executive director at ABC News and general manager of the Network News Service;
- Tony Stizza, photojournalist for more than 25 years at KTVY and KFOR;
- Scott Thompson, longtime news anchor at KOTV/Tulsa; and
- Yvette Walker, assistant dean for student affairs at OU’s Gaylord College.
Posthumous recipients are:
- B.A. Bridgewater, sports editor at the Tulsa World for 37 years;
- Tim Chavez, business writer, TV columnist, and syndicated political columnist;
- Charles Cagle, publisher, general manager and advertising representative for Neighbor Newspapers in suburban Tulsa;
- John A. Ferguson, Jr., sports writer for the Tulsa World for almost 50 years;
- Don Gammill, The Oklahoman editor and columnist;
- Helen Holmes, reporter, teacher and former Guthrie mayor;
- William E. Lehmann, Guthrie Daily Leader publisher and community leader;
- Marjorie Paxson, longtime reporter and editor for multiple publications;
- Andrew J. Smitherman, African American press pioneer and owner of the Tulsa Star; and
- William Russell Moore, war correspondent who gave his life helping wounded American soldiers in Korea.
Two Lifetime Achievement Awards will be awarded to Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, for his state leadership and influence as an author; and to Robert (Bob) K. Goodwin, of The Oklahoma Eagle for his community leadership, and national service in civil rights.
“All of these journalists, including the two Lifetime Achievement honorees, have contributed to the rich journalistic heritage in this state and nation. They range from important community leaders to journalism pioneers and innovators to a war hero. I’m proud of this year’s selections,” Hight said.
The anniversary gala will feature keynote speaker Bob Dotson, a hall of fame NBC journalist and New York Times best-selling author; an appearance by Will Rogers; and welcome from UCO President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar. Masters of ceremonies will be Mark Thomas, executive director of the Oklahoma Press Association, and Vance Harrison, president of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters.
In honor of the event, each member of the hall of fame will receive a commemorative 50th anniversary gift.
Also, “Oklahoma’s Greatest Journalists,” a hard-cover coffee table book written with essays, stories, vignettes and photos, will be available to order beforehand for $35 plus shipping, Hight said. Other improvements also will be made to the Hall of Fame in UCO’s Nigh University Center as well as to the website at okjournalismhalloffame.com.
Invitations to the gala will go out by the end of February, and reservations at $50 each must be made by April 3. Because of the larger than usual crowd expected, late reservations may not be able to be honored, Hight said. The public is invited to attend. Send an email to Hight at email@example.com if you are interested in receiving an invitation or attending.
“Now more than ever, we need to honor and appreciate the contributions of journalists and the important role they play in our country. Journalists have been and will be on the frontline of protecting our First Amendment freedoms,” said Hight, who is also Edith Kinney Gaylord chair of journalism ethics at UCO.
Hight said a 10-member selection committee, mostly hall of fame members, selected this year’s honorees.
The Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame was founded in 1971 by former UCO Journalism Chairman Dr. Ray Tassin. He was followed by Dennie Hall as director. Hight is the fourth director and succeeded Dr. Terry Clark, who retired three years ago and now serves as a consultant. This year’s inductees total 468 total members and six Lifetime Achievement honorees, all of whom are featured on the hall of fame website (okjournalismhalloffame.com). Past honoree plaques are on display at the Hall of Fame.
The biographies of the honorees are:
OKLAHOMA JOURNALISM HALL OF FAME 50th ANNIVERSARY CLASS
Clytie Bunyan (1961- ) has seen the business scene change drastically in her 30-plus years in Oklahoma. She started as an entry-level reporter and is now the coordinator of the internship program and staff development at The Oklahoman. She was the first woman and the longest-serving business editor, and in 2012 was named director of Business & Lifestyles. Her responsibilities expanded to being editor of the health, common education and city hall beats.
Al Eschbach (1945- ), considered by some as the father of sports talk radio, heard one listener in 1976 who didn’t think a Jersey City guy would make it as a sports announcer in Oklahoma. Four decades later, his broadcasts are more popular than ever. He worked for the Oklahoma Daily at OU, Norman Transcript, and The Oklahoma Journal. He started at KTOK as sports director in 1976 and worked for various radio and TV stations since. Eschbach is in the Oklahoma Broadcasters Hall of Fame and teaches at OU’s Gaylord College.
Rusty Ferguson (1961- ) comes from a family dedicated to newspapers and their communities. The third-generation publisher of The Cleveland American, The Hominy News-Progress and The Pawnee Chief. He was president of the Oklahoma Press Association in 2012 and served as the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce president three times. He is the fourth member of the Ferguson family to be inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame—his grandfather Jo. O, his uncle D. Jo and his father, Larry.
Lori Fullbright (1966- ) knew at age 12 she would be a TV reporter. The Bolivar, Mo., native followed her dream, starting at Missouri stations before moving to KOTV in Tulsa, where for 27 years, she has specialized in crime reporting. She has dedicated her career to sharing victim stories with sensitivity and telling stories that are fact-based and balanced. Civic work in crime prevention and promoting key women’s issues has earned her many awards. She has reported nationally and internationally on Oklahomans, including American military in Iraq, Bosnia and at sea.
Rochelle Hines (1963- ) covered major Oklahoma tragedies during her media career in the 22 years she worked for The Associated Press. Her work included covering the Oklahoma City bombing, the 1999 tornado, and the execution of several inmates at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Her stories at OU’s Oklahoma Daily about two teenagers on Oklahoma’s death row earned her the Hearst Award.
Michael McNutt (1952- ) has covered all types of stories during his more than 30 years at The Oklahoman. Oklahoma’s governors and lawmakers as well as state agency leaders knew the dedicated reporter who routinely worked 15- to 16-hour days on the capitol beat. He was named to the Washington Post’s list of best state-based political reporters in 2013. And he knows all about rural Oklahoma, venturing to places few residents have heard of. McNutt worked for Gov. Mary Fallin, first as her press secretary and then as communications director. He later became communications director for the juvenile affairs office.
Michael Sims (1954- ) began his TV broadcasting career at KWTV, eventually becoming managing editor. Also, early in his career, he was a street reporter for both the KOMA and WKY radio news stations. Skills gained in Oklahoma took him to the national market, where he helped the industry transition to the digital newsroom. He guided CBS through the change to digital that now includes news coverage for every conceivable platform. Later he joined ABC News as executive director and general manager of the Network News Service, a landmark video cooperative owned and operated by ABC News, CBS News and FOX News.
Tony Stizza (1957- ) worked more than 26 years at KTVY, now KFOR in Oklahoma City, filming documentaries such as “Tapestry” and “Strangers in Their Own Land.” His dedication has earned 16 Emmy Awards, three National Press Photographer’s Association regional photographer of the year, and numerous other awards. He is now video director for the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. He’s a member of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Scott Thompson (1961- ), longtime main news anchor at KOTV in Tulsa, is also widely known as the station's "Oklahoma Traveler" for the long-running series that took him to every continent except Antarctica. He began his career at his hometown Illinois newspaper and worked at KRCG-TV in Jefferson City, Mo. Moving to Tulsa in 1987, he worked at KJRH –TV before joining KOTV. He earned six national Edward R. Murrow Awards, eight regional Emmy Awards and the national Sigma Delta Chi Bronze Medallion for Public Service in Television Journalism.
Yvette Walker (1961- ), former news director at The Oklahoman, is assistant dean for student affairs at OU’s Gaylord College. She has served on the Society of Professional Journalists national board, the FOI Oklahoma advisory board and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. She was the Edith Kinney Gaylord Journalism Ethics Chair at the UCO. She has worked for medium to large news media in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Texas.
The 50th Anniversary Posthumous Class:
B.A. Bridgewater (1894-1964) may be the only person in the newspaper industry who, as a managing editor, hired himself to be a sports editor. “Bridge” held the Tulsa World position for 37 years and wrote a “Telling the World” column. In 1959, Oklahoma State University bestowed its only “Oklahoma Sports Writer” award to the “grand old man” of sports. In 1960, according to his obituary, OSU discontinued the award because “no one could follow Bridge.”
Tim Chavez (1958-2009) worked for The Oklahoman as a business writer and TV columnist before becoming an opinion page editor for the Observer-Dispatch in Utica, New York. He then became a reporter and political columnist for The Tennessean, syndicated by Gannett. He won three national awards from the Education Writers Association and the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
Charles Cagle (1937-2015) began throwing newspapers, worked in several departments at the Harrison (Ark.) Daily Times and was managing editor at the Clinton Daily News. In 1975, he joined Neighbor Newspapers (later CNHI) in suburban Tulsa as general manager for 19 newspapers. His 61 years in the news business included being named a Half-Century Club member by the Oklahoma Press Association.
John A. Ferguson Jr. (1925-2000) had a passion for writing about sports stars for nearly 50 years. Those stars were young athletes and internationally known athletes were part of his beat. “Fergy” wrote “The Bullpen” column for the Tulsa World. He was a leader, bringing young World staff writers along as they started their careers.
Don Gammill (1952-2017) had a varied career that extended beyond the four walls of a newspaper office. He held the traditional roles as a sportswriter and other various editorial positions, including editor and columnist, during his career at the Enid News & Eagle and The Oklahoman. He taught young journalists and reached out to the community to teach high school students, co-founding the Newsroom 101 program at The Oklahoman.
Helen Holmes (1915-1997) Being first was part of Helen Loretta (Freudenberger) Holmes’ life. She wrote for newspapers, taught journalism and was honored for her historical writing about Guthrie’s early days, work that was recognized by state leaders after her death. The former Guthrie mayor is a member of the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation, Oklahoma Historians and Oklahoma Women’s halls of fame
William E. Lehmann (1928-2016) As publisher of the Guthrie Daily Leader, he galvanized support to save the state’s first capital building and other historic sites in that city. His column “By the Way” was named the National Newspaper Association’s Best Humorous Column of the Year in 1973.
Marjorie Paxson (1923-2017), one of the first woman publishers in the country, spent 42 years in the newspaper industry, serving as a writer and holding various editorial positions for United Press, Associated Press, Houston Post, Houston Chronicle, Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times. She continued to write columns for the Muskogee Phoenix after her retirement as publisher in 1986. She served as national president for Women in Communications.
Andrew J. Smitherman (1883-1961) was an African-American press pioneer. He used his newspaper, the Tulsa Star, to urge the community to arm itself to protect its brethren from lynching in 1920. Because of the Tulsa Race “Riot” in 1921, he fled to the East Coast where he started the Buffalo Star.
William Russell Moore (1910-1950) probably never heard of Korea as a boy in Nowata, Oklahoma. But, after starting at The Oklahoman, he would join The Associated Press and distinguish himself as a war correspondent who gave his life helping wounded American soldiers. He was one of 90 correspondents killed during the Korean War. He served in the Army for four years during World War II and was promoted to the rank of major before being discharged.
The 2020 Lifetime Achievement Honorees:
Dr. Bob Blackburn (1951- ) His passion for history and government comes alive through his own life’s work. As executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society since 1999, he helped to plan and build the Oklahoma History Center museum, now home to more than 50 educational topics and 2,000 artifacts. His involvement with the OHS began in 1980, serving as editor of The Chronicles of Oklahoma. He has co-written nearly 20 books as well as numerous articles, journal entries and screen plays. He is known for his historical knowledge of Oklahoma journalism and his many friendship with journalists. Journalism also is part of his heritage. His mother, Ida B. Blackburn, known as “Ida B.,” was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2001.
Robert (Bob) K. Goodwin (1948- ) The Goodwin family has a long history of service in journalism, community leadership, and civil rights. As the fourth of his family to receive recognition from the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, Robert (Bob) Kerr Goodwin continues that legacy. Bob Goodwin stopped short of earning a doctorate to take over his family’s newspaper, The Oklahoma Eagle, where he became an award-winning columnist and helped the newspaper staff receive state and national awards. President George H.W. Bush later named Goodwin the executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a role Goodwin filled for two years. He later joined Points of Light, an international nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to solving serious social problems through encouraging voluntary service. In his 15 years there, 12 as CEO, he was instrumental in several successful initiatives, including the President’s Summit for America’s Future. Goodwin has received numerous awards for his work, including four honorary doctorate degrees. He was named one of the 50 most influential leaders in the nonprofit sector by The NonProfit Times nine years in a row.