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Charles H. Marler

GRIMES, J. FRANK (1891–1961). Frank Grimes, editor of the Abilene Reporter-News for over forty years, son of Lewis Gantt and Xantha Rosalie (Wootton) Grimes, was born at Pendleton, Texas, on October 13, 1891. He was the eleventh of twelve children. His father had served as a Civil War scout for Nathan Bedford Forrest and later became a Methodist circuit-riding preacher. The journalist added to his name the initial "J" as a teenager. He abandoned formal education at fourteen and became a printer's devil for the Belton Evening News. In 1906 he left newspapering for about two years to pick cotton and work cattle in Texas and Oklahoma. He also returned to school for a time before returning to newspapers as a tramp printer; he worked for a time at the Copperas Cove Banner and a Lampasas paper. In 1909, at age eighteen, he became the editor-manager of the weekly Holland Progress. In 1911 he became the printer-pressman of the Aspermont Star in West Texas but soon returned to Central Texas, where he worked for papers in Moody and Belton before going in 1913 to the Temple Daily Telegram as cub reporter; he later became city editor. Then came short editorships of the Temple Mirror and Brenham Banner-Press, which he left in December 1914 to become city editor of the Abilene Daily Reporter; his duties included reporting and running the press. In June 1919 publisher George Anderson named Grimes managing editor, a job that involved working with his business manager, Bernard Hanks, later to become an Abilene publisher and a founder of Harte-Hanks Communications. In 1924 Grimes joined the Texas Press Association. He was promoted to editor in chief when the sister Morning News was started in 1926. In 1937 the papers became the Abilene Reporter-News. Grimes functioned more as the editor of the editorial page than as a corporate editor and during most of his tenure wrote up to six editorials daily.

During his editorship (1919–61), circulation of the Abilene paper increased from 2,020 to 56,161, and his editorial-page readership in a 1944 Belden Poll measured 57 percent, more than the national average. He won four Texas Associated Press editorial awards-in 1949 for "He Sat Down to Play" (about Harry Truman), in 1957 for "Christmas at Copperas Cove," in 1958 for community-service editorials about an election on whether to retain the city council-manager system of government, and in 1959 for community-service editorials about an urban-renewal bond election. In 1951 a Pulitzer Prize jury nominated Grimes and six others for the prize in editorial writing, but the Pulitzer Prize Advisory Board rejected all seven and instead selected William Harry Fitzpatrick of the New Orleans States.

Grimes was a recognized newspaper poet, and his "The Old Mesquites Ain't Out" has become a part of West Texas folklore. His one-act folk opera, "Mesquites Under Thunder," was produced at McMurry College, whose founding is sometimes credited in part to Grimes's editorial support. He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1946 by the college. Grimes served in the Texas National Guard from 1908 to 1914 and the Texas Ranger Force in 1917. During World War II he was a president of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. Governor Coke R. Stevenson appointed him one of thirty-one members of the Post-War Economic Planning Commission for Texas. Grimes was a member of the 1947 American Press Institute editorial writers' seminar at Columbia University. He was a Methodist and a Democrat. During Abilene's seventy-fifth birthday in 1956, one day was named in his honor.

Grimes married a widow, Mary Ellen Feutrelle Senter, in 1913. They had four children, including a son, Rudyard Kipling, who died in a Japanese prison camp on Bataan after the Death March. After a divorce in 1939, Grimes married Edith Lovett Harris. He continued to write, even when ill, until his death on July 28, 1961. He died of pneumonia in Abilene after a long bout with tuberculosis and was buried in Elmwood Memorial Park, Abilene.

Abilene Reporter-News, July 29, 1961. Donald Pat Adams, "The Editor on Catclaw Creek," Texas Parade, October 1968. Donald Pat Adams, Frank Grimes, 1891–1961: Historical Study of the Life and Works of the Editor of the Abilene (Texas) Reporter-News (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1968). Editor and Publisher, August 5, 1961. Charles H. Marler, "The Prophet from Abilene," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 48 (1972). Reginald C. Westmoreland, "Words of Rare Wisdom from a Great West Texan," Texas Press Messenger, July 1966.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Charles H. Marler, "GRIMES, J. FRANK," accessed August 13, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgr87.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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