Janis Hruby never worked a day at The Duncan Banner. She never had a byline. Never sold an ad. Never mailed an invoice. Never delivered a paper route.
But few people have had more contact with the paper that now enters its 120th year of continuous operation.
Her dad. Harrington Wimberly, was a powerful player on the Oklahoma scene during the 1940as through the 1970s. A Texan by birth who was raised in New Mexico, he attended the University of Oklahoma, worked as advertising manager of the Altus Times-Democrat from 1924-25 after he graduated and later became editor and publisher of the Cordell Beacon.
He returned to Altus, bought the Times-Democrat, served as president of the Oklahoma Press Association, was appointed to the Federal Power Commission by President Harry Truman and later purchased The Banner in 1963, serving as editor and publisher until his death in 1978. A staunch Democrat, he lost a bid for Congress but was appointed to the OU Board of Regents by his good friend Gov. and later Sen. Bob Kerr.
Her husband, Al, was a Nebraska native and University of Nebraska graduate who earned a master’s in geology at Norman, falling in love with Janis and the Sooners at about the same time.
He was a successful geologist in places like Mississippi, Montana and California, but accepted the call to join the family business in 1965. He spent 10 years learning the trade, was named associate publisher in 1970 and assumed the editor and publisher title after Wimberly’s death. He held that position until the family sold The Banner to American Publishing Co. in July1997.
He served as president of the national OU alumni association and also as president of the state press association.
Her son, John, grew up in and around The Banner, logged training opportunities in several departments and served as publisher for a year after the transition from family to corporate ownership.
He and his wife, Tinker, now own and operate The Marlow Review while ownership of The Banner shifted from American Publishing to Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. of Alabama in February 1999.
But the timeline is unmistakable.
Janis Hruby, through her family affiliation, has been linked directly to The Banner from 1963 until 1997. That’s 34 years, 34 of 119 in an era of importance for our city and state.
A genteel sort, now older than she used to be, she remembers the period with fondness.
Her deepest and most lasting recollection revolves around the people she encountered.
She retains a fascination for those who worked at The Banner and those newsmakers, politicians and journalists she met through the paper, her father and her husband.
“It always seemed,” she said the other day, pausing to think back, “our house was always full of people from all parts of the state. My parents liked to entertain and it was exciting to be part of a newspaper family. They were…and are…a special breed. They’re involved and active.
“The people were so interesting, so current on events and it certainly made you think. Our dinner table conversations were never dull. There was always so much to talk about.”
She remembers, too, the “big press” and “deep pit” at the 8th and Willow Banner location (now a BancFirst parking lot), admitting, “I was always afraid I’d fall in.”
Not surprisingly, she graduated from OU with a degree in journalism.
“I don’t know why,” she admitted. “I thought it was what everybody did. It just seemed natural and I never thought about anything else.”
She worked briefly for the magazine that today is Oklahoma Today, but settled more quickly into being a supportive, behind-the-scenes wife and as Al assumed more responsibility she became even more supportive.
A significant role was in designing and building the current Banner complex, completed in 1972 as a state-of-the-art newspaper plant that remains well maintained and functional 40 years later. They traveled extensively around the country, visiting other plants, meeting people, taking photos and notes, borrowing ideas and helping assemble a plan. She added the touches of class and style.
Though she never had a desk or office, she has always had an interest, providing ideas, suggestions and recommendations, offering opinions and encouragement and caring about quality, value and conscience.
“I can’t imagine a community not having a newspaper that is involved, that tries to help move the community forward or that cares,” she said last week but probably also voiced dozens of times in earlier years.
It remains a good message today.
As we embark on The Banner’s 120th year as one of – if not, the – oldest continuous businesses in Duncan, it is a commitment we pledge to continue.
580-255-5354, Ext. 130