Monday, February 19, 2018




Latham: An East Texas girl comes to her -30-

Jan. 30, 2018 at 11:46 p.m.


Dorothy Estes was an East Texas girl, a graduate of East Texas Baptist University (when it was a college) and a former journalism teacher at Marshall High School. Bill Moyers was one of her students.

I didn't know any of that until the day I was named publisher of the Marshall News Messenger. She surprised me with a call telling me about her Marshall days and to wish me good luck.

Yet, just about the best luck I've ever had in my life was when Dorothy fell into it or, more accurately, I wandered into her domain, The Shorthorn, the student newspaper at the University of Texas at Arlington.

As with most East Texans, she had a plain and honest way of talking, but without being rude like so many people are these days. For too many, the Southern hospitality we grew up with has become more like Southern hostility.

If Dorothy ever raised her voice, I never heard it. Truth be told, though, if she ever raised her voice, it was probably in defense of something stupid I or one of her other students had done.

When it came to protecting us, she was like that mama grizzly you hear about. What pains me more these days is thinking of all the times she must have had to take a beating on my behalf. I guarantee you that happened more than once for me and others.

And she never once mentioned it.

There were some great instructors at UTA in those days. One I'm still privileged to be friends with on Facebook. Most of the others have passed to the other shore, where they will be able to help report on the biggest story that ever was or ever will be.

Dorothy is there now, too, standing in the background, watching, ready to answer questions when asked but not butting in. She died last week and will be buried today in Arlington.

A student publications adviser is something like a publisher in the real world, only harder because you are dealing with people who don't really know what they are doing. Unfortunately, those people are certain they know everything because they've had a couple of journalism classes and watched a bunch of television shows.

Still, Dorothy had a keen eye for talent and she recruited that talent from all over to go to UTA. Football coaches should do so good.

As a result, The Shorthorn for years was just about the best student newspaper in Texas and the nation. I'm not bragging; almost all those awards were won after I was long gone.

But whether you were one of those shining talents she recruited, or — like me — you couldn't think of what else to do, so decided to try journalism, she treated you with respect. Once you were one of her cubs, that's all it took to be an equal.

People from across the journalism nation started out at UTA under Dorothy's tutelage. They work at newspapers, television stations, websites, companies large and small as public relations leaders and a host of other occupations I don't know about.

All of them "owe" Dorothy, but the only payment she would ever want is for them to produce good work and do so in an ethical way.

I wish I had been a publisher as good as Dorothy was a publications adviser.

Beyond that, I wish I was the person Dorothy was. Maybe if I keep working at it, I'll get there.

We all reach our own -30- (the old journalism code for end of story), and when I do, I want to look up Dorothy. I know just where she will be, making sure all the facts have been double-checked.

— Phil Latham is editor emeritus of the News-Journal. His column appears Wednesday. Email platham@news-journal.com

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