Longtime Oklahoma newspaperman makes gift to

Fall 2013

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Melba Hudson celebrates the 1940 graduation of her future husband, Ed Livermore. The couple began dating at OU and were married 71 years, working together to build a successful string of community newspapers throughout Oklahoma.

Melba Hudson celebrates the 1940 graduation of her future husband, Ed Livermore. The couple began dating at OU and were married 71 years, working together to build a successful string of community newspapers throughout Oklahoma.

Tall and trim at 95, Ed Livermore is every bit the commanding presence he was half a century ago when he was hustling ads and barking at newsboys on his way to building a small, but vital, string of community newspapers in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.

“He never wanted to be the most important man in town,” said Ben Blackstock, former executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association, “but he was.”

That stature was evident at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication Centennial Celebration when dozens of people made their way across the room to greet their former boss and colleague. Livermore and his late wife, Melba, at one time owned or held interest in newspapers in Claremore, Sapulpa, Edmond, Guthrie, Pauls Valley and Catoosa, as well as Mineral Wells, Texas, and Clarksville, Arkansas.

Not long ago, Livermore ran into a former newspaper carrier, now a retired dentist, who was still “quite cognizant” of his tutelage under Livermore in the 1950s. “We worked the tail off the young people in Claremore building up circulation,” Livermore said.

Even as an OU student, Livermore had an entrepreneurial bent, running a laundry service, a business matching renters to boarding houses and a coat-check enterprise operated out of an empty room in the Oklahoma Memorial Union. When it was discovered he had neither sought nor been granted permission to use the room, he was nearly expelled, but went on to graduate in spring 1940.

Livermore was hired right out of college by the Anadarko Daily News, but by then he was nearly a seasoned professional. He had taken his first newspaper job at 10 at the Hobart Democrat Chief, where he delivered papers and swept out the publisher’s office. As he grew, so did his responsibilities, working both the “ad side” and in the newsroom.

“I was fortunate to have people in both departments take an interest in me,” he said.

Livermore’s choice to major in journalism at OU provided him not only a career, but also a life partner. A striking co-ed in the J-school caught his eye and later his heart. He and Melba Hudson dated at OU and after graduation, when she went to work for the Oklahoma Press Association and he for the Anadarko Daily News. The young reporter nearly wore out the tires on his ’38 Ford before he and Melba were married in August 1941.

During WWII, Melba returned to Norman while her husband served in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps. After the war, Livermore resumed his work at the Anadarko paper, which was owned by OU Regent Joe McBride Sr. and State Sen. Jim Nance. The two men were powerful forces in community journalism, with holdings in Hobart, Mangum and Clinton. When the Claremore Daily Progress became available, they took notice.

“McBride and Nance loaded me into the car in September 1947, and off we went to Claremore,” said Livermore. “They were instrumental in launching my newspaper ownership.”

With money he had saved from his army days and Melba’s investments in real estate, the couple came up with the down payment. “It was their [McBride and Nance] names on the note that made the difference. It damn sure wasn’t mine,” recalls Livermore of the $40,000 selling price. McBride and Nance soon sold their share to Ed Burchfield and Wheeler Mayo.

“Burchfield was editor and covered county, court and police,” said Livermore. “I was business manager and Mayo was in Sallisaw, available for consultation or advice, which we needed a lot of. Melba took care of the front office. We didn’t have large advertisers like Wal-Mart or the other big chains back then. I had to hustle every ad, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

The Livermores lived in Claremore for 12 years before moving to Sapulpa, when they purchased the Sapulpa Daily Herald. Other community papers followed. Their largest newspapers ran between eight and ten thousand circulation in towns where the population was not much larger. In the days before television and Internet, the local paper was a small town’s only source of news. “We marry ’em, and we bury ’em,” said Livermore.

The Livermores had three children, Ed, now of Kerrville, Texas; Sarah (Spencer) of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Mary (Bush) of Leawood, Kansas. Ed became his partner is the newspaper business, operating the Edmond Evening Sun. Melba Livermore died in January of this year at age 92.

“A community without a newspaper is like a man in the cold without a top coat,” said Livermore.