Newspapers in Genealogy: I Learn Something About My Father

This is something I was going to finish by the Carnival deadline, but my brief hospitalization interfered. By the way, the Carnival of Genealogy, 57th Edition, I Read It in the News, is posted at Jasia’s Creative Gene blog.

I’ve blogged before about the value of newspapers in genealogical research.  As the old saw goes, “Journalism is the first draft of history.”   It’s very useful to get a contemporaneous view of one’s family or the times they lived in by reading period newspapers.

Although you won’t find a lot written in newspapers about my ancestors and relatives, newspapers hold a  special place in my family history.   My uncle Richard Edward Gines (1926-1996), wrote for the late New York Herald Tribune.  My cousin Alexis was a reporter for a newspaper in North Carolina before getting into the other family profession–teaching. My father was a journalism major in college and later taught me to read at an early age by reading the newspaper with him.  He’s sort of a newspaper junkie. Whenever he’s in a new town–even just passing through–he  picks up the local paper and reads it from page 1 to the end.  Why? He freuqently doesn’t know anybody in these places and couldn’t care less about the local news itself.  What he does care about is journalism and its quality.   He taught me to be able to assess the quality of a newspaper on many levels.  He’s also a guy who, if you name the town, he can probably name its principal newspaper.

Recently, in preparing this post, I found out some things about my father that I did not know.  He wasn’t just a journalism major–he was one of the top journalism students in the country in 1955!  He never said anything about that.  More than half a century later, I discovered these two newspaper articles:

The Daily Capital News, (Jefferson City, Mo.), Friday, February 11, 1955, p. 7, col. 5:


A committee of two local newspapermen in conjunction with Dean A.S. Pride yesterday announced Lincoln University’s candidate for the nation’s outstanding journalism student.

Harold Vennis Manson, 23, 901-1/2 E. Atchison St., was adjudged the most qualified of a group of three recommended by the Journalism School of Lincoln University.

In National Competition

He will represent the university in  national competition in a program sponsored by the Foster Parents’ Needy European War Children’s Story Project.  The student selected will be sent to Europe this year with a leading foreign correspondent.

The national winner will be named by  a committee consisting of a national news magazine editor and wire service editors. The winner, under the supervision of the foreign correspondent, will prepare a series of articles based on  his observations in four European capitals: Paris, Bonn, Rome, and Athens. He  will write about the work of the Foster Parents’ plan and arrangements will be made  for his articles to be syndicated.

Student From Texas

Joseph Majersky, editor of the Capitol-News, and Chester Krause, editor of the Post-Tribune acted in conjunction with Dean Pride of the Journalism School in naming Lincoln’s candidate.

Manson, who is married, comes from Houston, Tex.  He is a senior in Lincoln’s School of Journalism where he expects to  get his B.S. degree May 30. He is majoring in news, and his courses have included reporting, copy-reading, photography, and newspaper management.

Manson has in turn been sports editor, city editor, and editor-in-chief of the Clarion, the school newspaper of Lincoln University; editor-in-chief of the college yearbook and is at present features editor of the Clarion. While attending Phillis Wheatley Senior High School at Houston, he edited the school paper, was associate editor of the school yearbook and president of the  Senior Hi-Y.

Then this appeared several months later in Jefferson City’s other major newspaper:

Jefferson City Post-Tribune, Tuesday PM, July 19, 1955, p. 1, col. 8


Harold Vennis Manson, Lincoln University journalism student, is one of four finalists for the European trip sponsored by the Foster Parents Plan for War Children.

This information was received here from Arnold Robinson of Russell Birdwell, Inc., [which] is handling the selection of America’s most outstanding journalism student.

The finalist [i.e., winner] will take a plane trip to Europe with a seasoned correspondent to gather information about indigent children of Europe.

The Foster Parents organization is conducting a national drive for adoptions of distressed children at a cost of $180 a year.

Already four families in Jefferson City are acting as foster parents  and if Manson is selected as finalist, he will visit the  four adopted children. One is Concetta Giodorno, 13 year old Italian girl who is  described as living in “dismal poverty in a windowless ground floor room on a narrow alley.”

Selection of the student journalist will be made next month so that the trip can be taken during September.

My paternally-derived journalist’s instincts got the better of me and I went looking for the other three  finalists.  They were: Raymond G. Fleckenstein of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh (see Senior Duke Finalist in Writing Test, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 11, 1955, p. 18, col. 4); Edward J. Hardy, Jr., of Syracuse University (see SU Grad In Hunt for Top Student Newsman, Syracuse Post-Standard, July 7, 1955, p. 12, col. 4); and Robert H. Lawrence of the University of New Mexico (see U. Grad Finalist in Contest to Visit Europe, Foster Children, Albuquerque Tribune,  July 18, 1955, p. 14, col. 4).

I couldn’t seem to find out who actually won; unfortunately, it wasn’t my dad.  At the time the four finalists were announced in July, 1955, he was on bivouac in the swamps of northern Virginia, near Fort Belvoir.  He had graduated and been commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers, in May 1955. And from 1958 to 1961, he did get to see Europe courtesy of Uncle Sam; first as a NATO secret courier between continental capitals, and later as a special services officer at Karlsruhe, Germany.

I’ve learned a bit about two of the other gentlemen.  Raymond G. Fleckenstein was a writer for United Press International for a number of years.  Then he went on to corporate communications jobs with PPG Industries, Jones & Laughlin Steel, and Ketchum Communications.  The last record I could find on him listed him as director of public relations for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Robert Lawrence was an Iowa native who went ti New Mexico in the late 1940s as a soldier. He was stationed at the semi-secret, but well familiar to readers of this blog, Sandia Base, near Albuquerque. He wrote for and edited the base newspaper.  After finally leaving the service in 1953, he enrolled as a journalism student at the University of New Mexico. Following graduation, he worked on a small paper in Belen, New Mexico, about 30 miles south of Albuquerque.  He then went on to a number of larger newspapers around the country, including back in his native Iowa.  In the mid-1960s, while my family lived in Albuquerque, Robert Lawrence was named political editor of the Albuquerque Tribune (which meant that my father and I read his work all the time, not knowing they had something in common!). A few years later, he was appointed press secretary t0 New Mexico Governor David Cargo.  Following this stint in politics, Lawrence returned to academia at UNM, eventually becoming head of the journalism department.

Robert H. Lawrence died in 2004 at the age of 77.

I couldn’t find much on Edward J. Hardy, Jr.

As for my dad, he never got to the big city newsroom he’d long dreamed about. One of his friends, a fellow officer at  Sandia Base, was also a journalism major; that fellow went on to a career that culminated as managing editor of the Dallas Morning News. My father had a  successful and satisfying career as an  Army officer; winning the Bronze Star in Viet Nam.  He then went  on to a second career as a university administrator.  He’s retired now, but you can find him any day reading several newspapers with practiced and knowledgeable eyes.  He can still tell you just about anything you want to know about newspapers great and small; far and near.  Dad didn’t make his living at journalism, but he never left journalism.

His honors as a student I learned about just a few days ago, more than half a century after th fact.  I asked him about it, and he just said in his understated way, “Oh, yeah, that.”

Some Good Newspaper Research Sites

Google News Archive

World Vital Records Small Town Papers  News and Town Records

Library of Congress Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers


University of Chicago Library-African American Newspapers

Historic Missouri Newspapers Project

Access My Library


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4 Responses to “Newspapers in Genealogy: I Learn Something About My Father”

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  • George Geder says:

    Hi Craig,

    I share Becky and Sheri’s sentiments.

    What’s up with parents not telling of their accomplishments? What’s up wid dat, as they say. My parents and elders were the same way.

    “Guided by the Ancestors”

  • Sheri Fenley says:

    Parents, gotta love ’em!

    Craig, your posts of late have been some of the best I have ever read on your Blog!

    Sheri Fenley

  • It’s amazing what parents don’t talk about, isn’t it? I’m sure, at the time, it was a pretty big deal. Actually, I think it still is quite an honor. Thanks for sharing a little bit about him.

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