ANDINISON & COMPANY COFFIE:E TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 12 d153-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip Bob and Sara Roebuck Anchor National Financial Services 1524 E. Anderson Lane, Austin bonds stocks insurance mutual funds optional retirement program 6s . r fe OC\(tc ‘e 1S?”1 40 hex Ax. c`k Oc The Texa Observer eeds clippers filers typists Volunteer now! 600 West 7th Austin, Texas 78701 18 AUGUST 11, 1978 By Jay Brakefield and Matthew Lyon San Marcos, Austin Newspapering has long been a line of work pursued by scrappy, irreverent, often cantankerous souls following in the fine tradition forged by the likes of Thomas Paine, William Brann and I. F. Stonejournalists who would sooner stick up for the little guy and rout the brute. Bob Barton, publisher of the Austin-based River City Sun and until recently of the Hays County Citizen in San Marcos, has for 25 years been at home in that tradition. Barton is a self-styled populist who likes small-town journalism, and his forum from 1953 to early 1978 was the Citizen \(he sold and reacquired the paper early years his iconoclasm and left-ofcenter politics got him labeled a “communist”of course in Hays County in those days anything but the staid was either “deviant” or “communist”but gradually he and the paper gained grudging acceptance in San Marcos. No little part of that eventual acceptance, he says, was due to his fourth-generation family roots in Hays County and the willingness of the community to take him in as a black sheep. “It’s always easier when you have people making excuses for you right off the start,” he says. His selfdisparagement belies truthhe helped bring an unaccustomed measure of reason to public discourse in San Marcos. Barton’s Citizen dug for news and reported it straight, and editorialized in support of liberal causes, like being for Adlai Stevenson and against Joe McCarthy, in favor of Mexican-American rights and against the Vietnam War. He grated on the community’s nerves but always treated people fairly. Not without tribulation, he nurtured the circulation from 600 to 6,000 and by 1975 everyone from Archer Fullingim to the Texas Press Association had called the paper one of the state’s best. During the first half of the ’70s Barton made his paper a leader of progressive forces in San Marcos and Hays County. His alliance with Mexican-Americans brought forth the burning of a cross, Klan-style, on his lawn in 1973but by then the seeds of enlightenment and tolerance had been sown and the burning was, finally, more a vestige of the past than a portent. Back in 1970, the town and county were lingering in the grip of a landowner-merchant clique that had held sway for years. Mexican-Americans had only token representation, for gerrymandering of precinct boundaries had divided the Hispanic community down the middle. Conservative whites, edgy about the thought of a “brown takeover,” cringed when Barton and three MexicanAmericans made a run for county commissioners’ posts in 1970. They knew full well they’d never win, Barton says, but their campaign nevertheless succeeded in pushing many important issues to the fore. Afterward, disillusioned with the direction of the local Democratic leadership, he and other rebellious types formed the Hays Independent Party and started an underground organ, La Otra Voz served chicanos and local pols for two years before the Citizen absorbed it in the fall of 1972. Attempts by Barton’s critics to maintain a boycott of his Colloquium bookstore \(his first successful evident that the clientele, 80 percent student, supported him. His long-time friendliness toward the 14,000 students at San Marcos’s Southwest Texas State University had done him good. Meanwhile the Citizen, a break-even enterprise for Barton all along, crusaded. It filed suit under the state open meetings law to force the county commissioners court and the school board into open sessions. It brought the federal Freedom of Information Act to bear in gaining access to suppressed information about racial incidents at the Camp Gary Job Corps training center. It campaigned against time-serving cronyism and flatout wrong-doing among local officials, helping to unseat a school superintendent and a sheriff. And, together with smaller papers in Canyon Lake and Marble Falls, the Citizen forced the Pedernales Electric Co-op to operate under a reasonable degree of public Once a week, a voice of sanity
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