Columnist honored with ‘Lifetime’ award
HUNTSVILLE—Willis Webb, whose career as an editor and publisher covered 50 years and nine Texas newspapers, has been named the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award by Sam Houston State University, where he took his first strides as a print journalist.
The announcement was released Sunday, June 13, by the chair of t he Ma ss Communication Departm ent, Dr. Glenda Balas.
“Mr. Webb was typical of many young men in the mid- 1950s,” she said. “He dropped out of school to help his family and to earn the money for the rest of his education. But his loyalty and gratitude to Sam Houston State never wavered.”
Willis later earned his degree in night school at the University of Houston. “But my heart,” he said, “always has been at Sam.” As a working student at what was then a teachers’ college, he served as Sports Information Director for the Bearkats, knocking down a salary of $45 a month. His freshman year, Webb was awarded the Art Laird Memorial Scholarship, selected by a committee chaired by a rising Houston radio newsman, and earlier Sam Houston product, named Dan Rather.
The native of Teague celebrated his 50th year as a Texas newspaper executive in 2007, having served as an editor or publisher, or both, with his hometown paper, moving on to Galena Park, Rosenberg, Cleveland, Conroe, Lockhart, Fredericksburg, Missouri City and, for the last 15 years and a half years, in Jasper, with the Hearst Corporation.
Among numerous honors, Willis and his wife, Julie, were recognized during the Texas Press Association’s 125th anniversary, in the Courageous Editors’ Division, for the articles they wrote about the race-hate murder and trials in Jasper of James Byrd.
Webb didn’t exactly retire after punching the clock on his 50th year. He currently writes a weekly column carried in 21 Texas community newspapers, including The Reporter.
Other highlights from Willis Webb’s career:
• Published newspapers that won multiple sweepstakes awards from press associations across the state: These included seven from the Texas Gulf Coast, South Texas (once), Texas (twice), North and East Texas (once).
• Won personal and staff awards in the categories of news writing, editorial writing, column writing, photography, advertising and page design.
• Honored by the National Newspaper Association, the Houston Press Club, the Press Club of Southeast Texas, Managing Editors of the Texas Associated Press and United Press International, and the Hearst Corp. community newspapers.
• In 1992 he was the founding president of the Jasper Boys and Girls Club, serving for 10 years.
• In 1997, received the Hearst Eagle Award for contributions to journalism, the first weekly newsman so honored.