Tale of dueling editors is a reminder of the early days of Texas community journalism

We do love to moan about the pressures of the news business.

Come to one of our workshops, or maybe to a TPA meeting, and you’ll hear lots of talk about the problems of life in a newsroom.

Most of them deal with stress and time and money.  And listen long enough, and you’ll hear some whines about the good old days when life was simpler.

Yeah, sure.  Kerry Craig, assistant editor of the Sulphur Springs News-Telegram, sent the Center an email this week that’s a reminder that the good old days of journalism weren’t exactly stress-free either.

Fact is, they could be downright dangerous.

Kerry sent along a news article from 1891, found by a researcher working on a book and passed on to him.

The article, from the St. Louis Republic, was headlined “FOUGHT A DUEL TO DEATH.”  The deck: “Two Texas Editors Shoot at Short Range with Fatal Result.” Here’s the article:

         Sulphur Springs, Tex., Sept. 16 – This quiet little city was thrown into great excitement over an impromptu duel about 9:30 o’clock this morning between E.M. Tate and Everett Moore, respective editors of the Hopkins County Echo and the Alliance Vindicator, which resulted in the death of the latter.  Tate received a slight wound in the left arm.  Moore received five wounds, one in the groin, two in the side and two in the leg, and lived but a few hours.  The pistols used were large and deadly weapons.  There has been ill-feeling between the two men for some time, and they have been attacking each other very severely in their papers.  This morning at the hour mentioned they met on the public square and at first engaged in a fist fight.  Moore finding Tate to be the better man, backed off from him and drew his gun, but Tate was equal to the occasion and drew his gun by the time Moore could fire.  Both men continued firing until their weapons were emptied, Moore shooting after he had fallen to the ground.  Eye-witnesses to the affair are unable to say which was the first to shoot.  Tate says Moore fired first and that he acted purely in self-defence.  Tate surrendered himself to the Sheriff, and is now undergoing a preliminary trial.

The Vindicator isn’t around anymore, but the Echo lives on today as a weekly publication of Kerry’s Sulphur Springs News-Telegram.

Dueling editors weren’t exactly unique to Texas.  The history of American journalism is full of editors (especially in the South and West) for whom the term “newspaper war” was a literal conflict.

The arguments in print frequently erupted in fisticuffs on the street, and duels like this one were not uncommon.

One San Francisco editor even put this sign on his door:  “Subscriptions received from 9 to 4; challenges from 11 to 12 only.”


By Kathryn Jones Malone

Kathryn Jones Malone is co-director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism. She began her career as a staff writer at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, then worked as a staff writer for the Dallas Times Herald and The Dallas Morning News; as a contract writer for The New York Times; as a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly magazine; as editor of the Glen Rose Reporter; and as a freelance writer for numerous state, regional and national magazines. She teaches journalism at Tarleton State University.