On May 2, 1919, Clifton Frederick Richardson, Sr., founded and became editor/publisher of the African American newspaper, the Houston Informer in Houston, Texas. He published the first issue on May 24, 1919. The newspaper was published weekly, and Richardson received financial support to start this endeavor from Hobart Taylor, a local black millionaire. S. B. Williams, a local teacher, was employed to serve as the publication’s city editor. C. A. Paillet was listed as city circulator, and Mayme R. Robinson was the associate editor. The Houston Informer was the first firm to occupy office space in the newly-erected Odd Fellows Temple. Richardson utilized subscription agents to increase readership and advertising agents to secure regional and national advertisements. Notices in the Informer during the 1920s stated that the newspaper had agents in five Texas towns, as well as in Atlanta, New York, and Chicago. The Café de Paris in London also sold copies of the journal.
Richardson’s ten-point platform ran on his editorial page of each issue of the Houston Informer and included the advocacy of domestic and foreign democracy, playgrounds for African American children and the improvement of educational facilities for them, an educated and consecrated ministry, development of the Houston Ship Channel, cooperation between races, better streets, federal investigations and legislation regarding lynching, and equality “before the law for all men.”
In the years from 1919 to 1930, the Houston Informer was a prominent voice and resource for advancing the rights of all in the city of Houston, the region, and the United States. The Informer championed its ten-point platform in many key issues that concerned the African American community and society at large. The newspaper reported on discriminatory voting practices of the Harris County Democratic party for its party primary, efforts for anti-lynching laws in Texas and the United States, activities of the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other Texas branches of the NAACP, and the meaning of democracy as defined in the United States Constitution. Richardson addressed the issues of children and education regarding a scholastic bill, the need for quality parenting, the discriminatory teacher salary structure of the Houston Independent School District, and the recommendations of the Colored Citizens’ Committee on the Houston Independent School District’s $3 million bond issue for the schools in the district. The Informer also discussed the inequities in the application of property tax revenue, the lack of jitneys for transportation in the city, various infrastructure projects, access to building and loan opportunities for the black community, the dedication of the Houston Negro Hospital (see RIVERSIDE GENERAL HOSPITAL), and many other events and issues.
In April 1927 a decision was made to establish the Webster-Richardson Publishing Company as detailed in a charter filed in the office of the Texas Secretary of State on April 6, 1927. George Webster and C. F. Richardson were the partners in the new company, and Richardson, Webster, S. B. Williams, Carter Wesley, and Jack Alston Atkins were listed as the five directors. Shortly after this change, the Informer was incorporated. Carter Wesley and J. A. Atkins were the attorneys who handled the transaction. In 1930 attorneys Atkins, Wesley, and the other directors of the Informer seized corporate control of the newspaper from Richardson. This action fractured the already unstable relationship between Richardson and Wesley, who differed on the journalistic, business, and financial issues regarding the operation of the newspaper.
On January 14, 1930, a majority of the stockholders in the Webster-Richardson Publishing Company voted to change the name of the corporation to the Webster Publishing Company. After this process, Richardson was no longer listed as a director. Webster, Wesley, C. N. Love (publisher of the Texas Freeman), Atkins, and Williams were listed as directors. In the November 22, 1930, issue of the newspaper, the editorial page included the message that C. F. Richardson was “no longer connected with” the Houston Informer. By that time Richardson had left the Informer and announced that he had created another newspaper, the Houston Defender.
In January 1931 Wesley and Atkins asked C. N. Love to remain as contributing editor of their paper, which was a merger between the Houston Informer and Love’s Texas Freeman. On January 10, 1931, the Houston Informer and Texas Freeman was first published as a unified paper. On January 14, 1931, the Webster-Richardson Publishing Company became the Webster Publishing Company. Love retired as a publisher, but his paper’s name survived.
By 1933 as was the case with Wesley and Richardson, friction developed between Webster and Wesley regarding the paper’s financial policies. Webster left the Informer and Texas Freeman and founded the Webster Printing Company. On January 11, 1933, the Webster Publishing Company stockholders voted to change the name of the corporation to the Informer Publishing Company. After Webster’s departure, the corporate takeover of the newspaper was complete. Attorney J. A. Atkins assumed the position of contributing editor vacated by George Webster. Attorney Atkins left the newspaper during 1931 to serve as secretary of Winston-Salem Teachers College. In 1936 Wesley became general manager of the newspaper. In 1946 he was president of the corporation’s board. The corporation’s name was changed in 1946 to the Freedman’s Publishing Company. This gave it a different legal status.