The Texas Press Association is a statewide professional organization of weekly, semi-weekly and daily newspapers published in the state of Texas. It was founded by a group of seventy-seven journalists who met on May 19, 1880, at the Hutchins House in Houston. The purpose of the association is to provide members with a forum for discussing the legal and economic problems that face newspapers as businesses, to promote the welfare and rights of the Texas press, and to speak out on issues of public concern such as education and government. Following the resolution of a dispute over voting rights between owners and editors, members at the first meeting elected J. W. Fishburn of the Mexia Ledger to be the first president and agreed to meet again in 1881. Early conventions of the TPA reflected the hard times facing many of Texas journalists, along with confrontations arising from the political and moral climate of the state. Attendance and membership varied greatly because of economic woes facing many newspapers, even though members were often provided free transportation by the railroads and lodging by hotels in Houston and Dallas, the sites of the first meetings. In public matters the TPA was critical of the public school system in Texas during the 1880s, calling it "defective and inadequate" and "a source of blank mortification" when compared to that of other states. The third convention in April 1882 made all bona fide proprietors or editors of newspapers published no less than once a month, except "those of African descent," eligible for membership. The association entertained a resolution at its third convention from Mary S. Hathaway, the Texas organizer for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, for free space in newspapers to assist in the formation of the statewide anti-alcohol group. The association declined to dictate such a requirement for its members, despite expressing sympathy for the cause of temperance "in all things." The alcohol issue continued as a problem for TPA when the group met in San Antonio in 1886 and debated an invitation to attend a reception at the Lone Star Brewery. According to A. D. Lillard of the Fairfield Recorder, the association was "to a great measure, misunderstood and misrepresented as to being a drinking and semi-dissipated body at its annual meetings." Lillard's motion to cancel the visit failed on an 18–17 vote.
Libel, advertising, education, printing, legislation, and community service remain ongoing concerns for both publishers and editors belonging to TPA. Among the association's significant accomplishments are the reestablishment of a Journalism Department at the University of Texas in 1929, start of the move for state purchase of the San Jacinto battleground, and passage of more stringent state laws concerning public notices and public access to government records and meetings. In 1947 the TPA hired Vernon T. Sanford as its first executive director with offices at the Baker Hotel in Dallas. The following year the association headquarters moved permanently to Austin, first to the Driskill Hotel and later to other locations in the capital city. Since 1970, and as of 1990, association offices were located in the Texas Press Association Building at 718 West 5th Street in Austin. Following the retirement of Sanford in 1971, Bill Boykin served as manager of the organization. Since 1974 Lyndell Williams has held this position, which now bears the title of executive vice president. TPA is headed by a president and board of directors selected from the membership, along with a twelve-member executive committee. The president serves a term of one year, and board members serve for three years. The president in 1990 was Mary Judson. The association meets annually at cities around the state. The number of newspapers belonging to TPA has changed significantly during its history. At the turn of the century membership comprised 789 newspapers (eighty-three dailies and 706 weeklies and semi-weeklies). In 1956 655 newspapers (112 dailies and 543 weeklies and semi-weeklies) belonged to the association and in 1989 560 publications (106 dailies and 454 weeklies and semi-weeklies). The Texas Press Association Messenger, a monthly magazine, which began publication in 1926, is the official voice of the association.