William Allen White

By Gartner, Michael G. | Editor & Publisher, October 30, 1999 | Go to article overview

William Allen White


Gartner, Michael G., Editor & Publisher


William Allen White Born: 1868 Died: 1944

Career Highlights: Owner and editor of his hometown paper, The Emporia Gazette, from 1895 until his death. Won a Pulitzer for his editorials and wrote the famous essay about the death of his daughter, "Mary White."

William Allen White was a country editor. But not just a country editor.

He was a country editor who was on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation, chairman of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, regent of the Kansas university system, editorial board member of the Book-of-the-Month Club, friend of Herbert Hoover and Wendell Willkie, and biographer of Calvin Coolidge. He was a country editor who ran for governor of Kansas in 1924.

But William Allen White, who went to Haiti for President Hoover and to Europe for the Red Cross and who filed dispatches to The New York Times while on a trip to Moscow, loved Emporia, Kan., and the Emporia Gazette the most of all. Emporia was where he was born, where he owned and edited the newspaper for most of the first half of this century, where he died at age 75 in 1944.

He must have had more joy than any other person of his era. For nothing can be more fun and more wonderful - and, probably, have more impact - than writing editorials for a paper you own in a town you love and know. Unless it's doing all that while taking the occasional trip to London or Paris or Washington to see the world or dine with presidents or just have fun.

William Allen White knew every person, every horse, every dog in Emporia, and he probably wrote about each of them at one time or another. One editorial begins, "Parson T. F. Stauffer held his annual coming-out party for his straw hat yesterday afternoon." Another begins, "The editor of this newspaper desires to buy a horse."

But most of all, White knew right from wrong, and he praised the right and exposed the wrong. He knew that "the editor must be guide, philosopher, and friend to all - the rich as well as the poor.

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