- The First Texas News Barons
Historians maintain that America's involvement in the Second World War helped transform Texas into a modern society. Although some scholars state that the war created thousands of jobs for Texans, relocated individuals from rural areas into the state's major cities, and established new industries and businesses throughout Texas, Patrick Cox notes that these developments in industrialization and urbanization occurred in the Lone Star State prior to the outbreak of World War II. In Cox's The First Texas News Barons, the author argues that Texas's modernization process began in the early twentieth century and that Texas newspaper publishers such as George B. Dealey, William P. Hobby, Edwin Kiest, Amon G. Carter Sr., and Jesse H. Jones assisted the transformation by dominating civic affairs. Cox's study focuses on various events and key issues in Texas from the late nineteenth century until 1940, including the onset of the Mexican Revolution and World War I; the rise and fall of the Ku Klux Klan; the impact of the Great Depression; and how the Texas Centennial contributed to Texas assuming a unique southwestern image.
One of the work's themes deals with how Texas newspaper publishers reacted to the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s. Following the reestablishment of the secret society, a majority of business establishments and influential political leaders in Texas either joined the Klan or remained idle against its extremist actions. However, the state's newspaper editors provided the initial opposition to the Ku Klux Klan. For example, Jesse H. Jones of the Houston Chronicle and George Dealey of the Dallas Morning News maintained that the secret society represented a threat to the commercial and social structure of Texas, which impeded the state's modernization process. The publishers' activities not only contributed to the decline of the Klan in the late 1920s, but also strengthened their position as leaders in Texas's civic and political affairs.
The newspaper publishers were also influential in altering Texans' attitudes toward the national government. Prior to the 1930s, Texans believed that the federal government should not interfere with economic crises because the market would eventually correct itself. However, the outbreak of the Great Depression caused Texas publishers to urge citizens to support the expansion of the federal government's role in the economy because New Deal legislation would provide for banking and securities regulations, farm subsidies, business loans, and massive public works projects. By the mid-1930s, a majority of Texans supported an expanded national government that offered relief from the Great Depression. Cox attributes this shift in beliefs among Texans to the strong ties that publishers had within the state's local societies.
Another interesting aspect of Cox's work deals with how the newspaper industry and local publishers helped transform Texas's identity from a southern state to a western one. During the early twentieth century, Americans viewed Texas as a former slaveholding, cotton producing, and Confederate state. Newspaper publishers believed that changing Texas's self-image was vital to the state's future because the South was considered the poorest and least developed region of the United States. [End Page 427] Fearing that northern industrialists would invest in western states instead of establishing operations in the South, newspaper editors portrayed Texas as part of the American West. For instance, the state's newspaper publishers emphasized western images including cowboys and outlaws, frontier environments, stagecoaches, and buffalos in promoting the Texas centennial events of 1836. After nearly 6 million people attended the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas and more than one million people participated in the Fort Worth Frontier Centennial, the American public began to regard Texas as a western state with its own unique identity. Thus, the publishers' efforts eased the way for northern investment and population migration.
Cox's book is well written and thoroughly researched. Any scholar wanting to study how newspaper publishers contributed to the economic and urban development of Texas...