Fullingim, Archer Jesse (1902–1984)

By: James McEnteer

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Archer Jesse Fullingim, newspaper publisher, environmentalist, and social critic, one of seven children of Alfred and Mahala (Hall) Fullingim, was born near Decatur, Texas, on May 31, 1902. He helped his parents farm cotton until drought forced them to leave Wise County in 1916. In 1917 the family settled on a cotton farm near Paducah. In 1919 Fullingim entered Decatur Baptist College, where he graduated in 1921. He then taught in a one-room school for two years before enrolling at the University of Oklahoma. After graduating in 1925, he began a gypsy life that took him to jobs on the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle and the Miami Herald. He shipped out as a merchant seaman to Cuba, Japan, and British Columbia. In 1927 he worked six months on the weekly Shafter Progress near Bakersfield, California.

Fullingim returned to Texas in 1928 and worked for the Galveston Tribune and the Panhandle Herald. The next year he became a wire editor, columnist, and "roving correspondent" for the Pampa Daily News, where he worked for thirteen years. Despite his age, he enlisted in the navy in 1942 and served in the South Pacific for four years.

In 1946 he bought the Normangee Star, a weekly newspaper he published for three years. In 1950 he sold the Star, bought a print shop in Paris, Texas, and moved it to the small East Texas town of Kountze. On September 14, 1950, Fullingim printed the first issue of the Kountze News, the newspaper that brought him statewide and ultimately national attention. His outspoken front-page column, "The Printer Fires Both Barrels," gave Fullingim an influence far greater than his small weekly circulation of 2,000 would suggest. He sent White House copies to presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Fullingim's columns were admired by J. Frank Dobie and Ronnie Dugger; they were reprinted in the Texas Observer, the Dallas Morning News, and many Texas weeklies. Fullingim took aim at local, state, and national politicians, giving them satirical nicknames. He is credited with being the first to label Richard Nixon "Tricky Dicky" in the early 1950s. He attacked the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan. As a populist he feuded with such newspapers as the Dallas Morning News and the Beaumont Enterprise, which he thought worked with corporations against the popular interest.

Fullingim helped lead a prolonged battle to save the Big Thicket, an East Texas forest filled with rare flowers and birds, endangered by the lumber industry. His environmental position was not popular locally, where most jobs depended on the timber harvest. But Fullingim's vigorous campaign met success in 1975 when the Big Thicket National Preserve was established.

Fullingim was a Methodist but criticized the Methodists for not practicing what they preached. In the early 1960s he began to oppose racism, which he had been raised to believe was justified, and eventually became an advocate for black and Hispanic civil rights. He supported Henry Gonzalez for governor in 1958. In the 1960s he spoke up in favor of long hair, antiwar demonstrators, and a revision of the harsh marijuana laws. Fullingim sold his newspaper in 1974. A book of selections from his columns and articles from the Kountze News, entitled Archer Fullingim: A Country Editor's View of Life appeared in 1975. Fullingim died on November 26, 1984, in Silsbee. He authorized the inscription on his tombstone to read: "His favorite Kountze news story for twenty-five years was the Big Thicket." He was buried in the Old Hardin Cemetery near Kountze.

James McEnteer, Fighting Words: Independent Journalists in Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992). Willie Morris, "Both Barrels: Fullingim of Kountze News," Texas Observer, August 29, 1958. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Publishers and Executives

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

James McEnteer, “Fullingim, Archer Jesse,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 03, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/fullingim-archer-jesse.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995