Morris Roberts had an opportunity to purchase the Victoria Advocate in 1942 with 10 local businessmen and became the editor and manager of the newspaper.
By April 1961, he purchased all of the company’s stock and became the sole owner of the Advocate. He built and expanded buildings for the newspaper and installed a new offset press (the largest in Texas at the time) and established the newspaper as a major influence for progress throughout the South Texas region.
Roberts passed away on Jan. 13, 1991, and laid a foundation for a newspaper ownership that has continued for three generations.
On Friday, Roberts was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame for exemplary service to the communities M. Roberts Media serves and to the Texas newspaper industry.
M. Roberts Media is a family-owned company. In addition to the Victoria Advocate, the family owns the Longview News-Journal, Tyler Morning Telegraph, Marshall News Messenger, Kilgore News Herald and the Panola Watchman.
The Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame honor is also for advancing a legacy of a free and responsible press and inspiring others to improve the quality of the profession of journalism.
Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp introduced Roberts. Sharp, a veteran, won a seat in the Texas Senate in 1982 and was elected to the Texas Railroad Commission. He was elected Texas State Comptroller in 1990 and 1994.
“He taught me to respect the press. He held my feet to the fire, he gave me an unbelievable respect for the press and the reason he was able to do that is because the whole community was behind him,” Sharp said.
Sharp talked about making a decision that upset readers in Victoria and Roberts wrote editorials criticizing him that he keeps and reads to this day.
“What he taught me, which was better than any silver and better than any gold, and that’s to have a healthy respect for the press which unfortunately too many politicians don’t have today,” Sharp said. “But they had the entire community’s trust behind them. I’m honored to be here to speak on the person who had the most profound impact on my life. If you think I did some good in my life, it’s because of Morris Roberts, and he was the best.
Morris’ daughter, Kay McHaney, accepted the honor and thanked the Texas Press Association
“I’m so proud of the passion that he had for the credibility of local journalism. I’m proud of my children and his grandchildren,” McHaney said. “Stephen McHaney is our president of the company, Gordon McHaney is chairman of our board and Sarah McHaney is a supporter of ours, so we appreciate being recognized.”
At age 26, Roberts was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from Bee County in 1932 and re-elected in 1934. He moved to the Texas Senate where he served until 1941.
In addition to the Victoria Advocate, Roberts was the editor of the Baylor Lariat in college and worked for the Brownsville Herald, Pampa News and briefly owned KVIC radio in Victoria. Roberts is the past president of the South Texas Press Association (1948-1949) and his son, John, held the same role in 1978-1979.
Also honored with hall of fame inductions at the Denton Convention Center were:
- Charles Moser, who spent 40 years as the editor and publisher of the Brenham Banner-Press as well as other publications. He was active in the Texas Press Association and other legislative activities on behalf of Texas newspapers.
- Don R. Richards, an award-winning community journalist and is a senior partner with the Lubbock law firm of Richards, Elder & Gibson. He has practiced media law and has been honored for his free legal counsel and contributions for open meetings law and the free flow of public information. He has been the publisher for The Banner of Love for 34 years.
- Tommy Thomason, who taught and mentored journalists for 35 years at TCU and with the Texas Center for Community Journalism. He has worked at several newspapers and publications in Texas. He is credited for raising money for training and seminars to help newspapers in all areas. He is the author of nine books on journalism.