Allen Webster Hawkins, a 57-year resident of Osawatomie, Kan., died Friday, April 8, 2016. He was 90 years old. He had recently been in declining health. He was a noted former Kansas newspaper editor-publisher and community leader.
Mr. 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 M.U., he operated a Linotype for the Columbia Daily Tribune. He graduated from the M.U. School of Journalism in 1947.
In September 1947, Web left on a bus from Columbia to Russell, Kan., 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, not without 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, Kan.; Fort Sam Houston, Texas; 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, Kan. She had grown up in Russell and preferred her nickname, “Schmitty.” The couple were married in Sulphur Springs, Texas, by a close friend.
In January 1959, Web and Schmitty moved to Osawatomie. Web accepted the position of managing editor of the Osawatomie Graphic-News under then-publisher Nelson S. Reppert. Mrs. Hawkins became the newspaper bookkeeper. She had previously worked at a bank in Russell.
Within a couple of years, Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins 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.
Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins 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 that serves most newspapers in Kansas, including both weekly and daily publications. 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, D.C., at the time. He became president of the NNA in 1988.
In 1998, Web and Gladys 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.
He served on the board of directors of the former First Federal Savings & Loan Association in Osawatomie for more than 30 years. He was chairman of the board many of those years.
Web was active in the Osawatomie United Methodist Church, serving on various church boards and committees.
Mr. Hawkins was one of the founders of Greater Osawatomie, Inc. (GO, Inc.), an economic development corporation in the community, which helped spearhead additional businesses and new housing in the 1970s and 1980s.
Web and Gladys were major contributors to the establishment of a family fitness center and indoor swimming pool adjacent to the Osawatomie High School building in 2007. A wing for school newspaper production and adult education classes at the new facility was dedicated in their names when the fitness center opened. It was known as a Family YMCA when it opened. It now carries the name of OZ Family Fitness Center.
The couple were also major contributors to the Kansas Newspaper Foundation, a non-profit subsidiary of the Kansas Press Association. The Hawkins couple also created a local foundation which will assist in Osawatomie civic improvements in the future. Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins’ legacy of community service will be ever-lasting in numerous and untold ways.
Mrs. Hawkins died on 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. The PRIDE program was recognized twice at the state level. Schmitty was truly Web’s soulmate.
Besides Web’s wife and parents, he was also preceded in death by three brothers Gene Hawkins, Charles Hawkins and Kenneth Hawkins; and four sisters Helen Webb, Sally Spray, Rose Biggs and Carol McCormack.
Survivors include one sister Mrs. Betty Gilmer, and her husband, Billy Gilmer, of Maryland Heights, Mo.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Eddy-Birchard Funeral Home, Osawatomie, was in charge of arrangements.
Visitation was Monday, April 11, at the funeral home.
A funeral service was held Tuesday, April 12, at the Osawatomie United Methodist Church.
Burial will be at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, at the St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery at Russell, Kan.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Kansas Newspaper Foundation, 5423 SW 7th St., Topeka, KS 66606.
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