Hawkins, longtime Kansas publisher, dead at 90

May 9, 2016

Allen Webster Hawkins, 90, a 57-year resident of Osawatomie, KS, died April 8, 2016. He had recently been in declining health. He was a noted former Kansas newspaper editor-publisher and community leader. Hawkins, who preferred to be called by his nickname, Web, was born Dec. 15, 1925, at Advance, MO, a son of Arthur C. Hawkins and Winness McNeely Hawkins. He attended grade school in Advance and graduated in 1943 from Flat River High School in Flat River, MO.

Web’s first salaried job was with the St. Francois County Journal in Park Hills, MO, while he was a sophomore in high school. It was there he learned to operate a Linotype typesetting machine, among other things. This knowledge of the Linotype allowed him to work his way through Flat River Junior College and attend classes at Washington University.

After graduating from Flat River Junior College in 1944, Web accepted a teaching position in De Soto, MO. He taught seventh and eighth grade mathematics and coached high school football and track for two years before entering the University of Missouri-Columbia. While attending MU, he operated a Linotype for the Columbia Daily Tribune. He graduated from the MU School of Journalism in 1947.

In September 1947, Web left on a bus from Columbia to Russell, KS, where he had accepted the position of managing editor of the Russell County News, which was owned by the Townsley family. The day after he arrived, the newspaper switched from a weekly publication to being printed six days a week, presenting challenges for a young man fresh out of journalism school.

In 1950, Web’s career took an unexpected turn. He was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After basic training, he became a public information officer, serving at Fort Riley, KS; Fort Sam Houston, TX; and Camp Pickett, VA. He was discharged as a corporal in 1952 and returned to Russell to resume work as managing editor at The Daily News.

On Nov. 25, 1956, Web was married to Gladys Ann Schmidt of Russell, KS. She had grown up in Russell and preferred her nickname, “Schmitty.” The couple married in Sulphur Springs, TX, by a close friend.

In January 1959, Web and Schmitty moved to Osawatomie, KS. Web accepted the position of managing editor of the Osawatomie Graphic-News under then-Publisher Nelson S. Reppert. Schmitty became the newspaper’s bookkeeper. She had previously worked at a bank in Russell.

Within a couple of years, Web and Schmitty became half owners of the weekly newspaper in Osawatomie. They later acquired full ownership of the business. The newspaper name was later officially shortened to The Graphic.

Web took pride in his policy of writing at least three editorials a week for the hometown newspaper’s editorial page and regularly encouraged people to write letters to the newspaper for publication. He didn’t necessarily expect people to agree with him on local, state and national issues. Of course, many didn’t agree, but Web got pats on the back by others. He knew it was a personal responsibility to stimulate thoughts and opinions with his editorial page. He stayed firm with his editorial stances.

The couple gradually expanded their newspaper holdings. They acquired the Linn County News at Pleasanton, Louisburg Herald and Emporia Times. They also owned a partial interest in the Hillsboro Star-Journal and The Herington Times.

After becoming involved in newspaper ownership, Web became actively involved in the Kansas Press Association, which serves most newspapers in Kansas. He served on the KPA board of directors and was president of the board in 1970. He also became involved in leadership of the National Newspaper Association, which was based in Washington at the time. He became president of the NNA in 1988.

Web Hawkins earned the Robert M. Bailey Award from NNA in 1988, the University of Missouri School of Journalism Honor Medal in 1989 and the Clyde M. Reed Jr. Master Editor Award from KPA in 1996. He is enshrined in the Kansas Press Association’s Newspaper Hall of Fame.

In 1998, Web and Schmitty retired from the newspaper publishing business and sold their last two newspapers, The Osawatomie Graphic and Louisburg Herald, to Miami County Publishing Co. of Paola.

Web was a member of the Osage Valley Lodge No. 24, A.F. & A.M.; Scottish Rite, Shrine and the Elks Lodge. He was a past patron of the Order of the Eastern Star Lodge.

Web also oversaw the development of a central printing plant operation in 1968. East Kansas Offset Inc., was set up in The Graphic building after extensive remodeling. This allowed The Graphic to switch its printing method from letterpress to offset. Joining in the modernized printing operation was the semi-weekly Garnett newspaper and later the semi-weekly Paola newspaper. The Graphic and East Kansas Offset jointly occupied an all-new building in the 500 block of Main Street in 1973, after a disastrous hotel fire the year before, next to the longtime Graphic-News building. The Graphic had escaped damage. Some other new business buildings were also constructed in the same block after the enlarged newspaper office and printing plant were built.

Web and Schmitty contributed to the Kansas Newspaper Foundation, a non-profit subsidiary of the Kansas Press Association. They also created a local foundation, which will eventually assist in Osawatomie civic improvements. 

Schmitty died Feb. 15, 2009, after many contributions of her own to the betterment of the Osawatomie community. She loved working as a volunteer on civic projects, especially the Community PRIDE Committee for several years. Schmitty was truly Web’s soulmate.