Thompson, Paul Jennings (1890–1964)

By: DeWitt C. Reddick

Type: Biography

Paul Jennings Thompson, professor of journalism, was born in Quincy, Illinois, on September 26, 1890, the son of William F. and Calpernia (Oldenhage) Thompson. After graduation from high school in Kahoka, Missouri, he worked for two years on the Clark County Courier, then enrolled at the University of Missouri to study journalism. After graduating in 1914 he held successive positions as assistant editor of the Courier, editor of the Macon, Missouri, Republican, and member of the advertising staff of the Cedar Valley Times of Vinton, Iowa. He volunteered for the army in World War I and was sent to Camp McArthur, near Waco, Texas, where he met and later married Bess Gentry Park. After the war he worked for a year on the Billings, Montana, Gazette; in 1919 he accepted an invitation to join the journalism faculty at the University of Texas as an adjunct professor. In 1925 cuts in appropriations devastated the journalism school; Thompson was the only faculty member to stay. While teaching a full load he studied for his M.B.A. degree, which was awarded in 1927. The same year, funding was reinstituted for the journalism school, and Thompson was made chairman. He was instrumental in designing Texas Student Publications, Incorporated, a model organization for the production of student publications that has been widely imitated by other universities. He opposed overloading the curriculum with professional courses and helped to steer journalism education throughout the country into the broader liberal-arts channels. He helped to found the Southwest Journalism Congress and served as its president. He was elected national president of the American Association of Schools and Departments of Journalism in 1946–47 and was one of the designers of the national accreditation program in journalism education. On May 1, 1953, he received the University of Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism. With Ward C. Mayborn, Texas publisher, Thompson established a system of summer internships on Texas newspapers for journalism students. His efforts resulted in the development of a scholarship program for journalism students. In March 1949, 400 of Thompson's former students gathered at a dinner in his honor, and a sum of $2,000 from more than 1,000 ex-students was presented to him to use for journalism education. When he retired in 1959 from the directorship of the school of journalism, 500 students gathered to honor him. Afterward, he began writing a book on the ethics of journalism. The manuscript was completed shortly before he died. Thompson was a Methodist, a Mason, and a member of the American Association of Teachers of Journalism. He died in Austin on May 22, 1964, and was buried in Austin Memorial Park. His papers were donated to the University of Texas.

Austin American, May 23, 1964. Austin American-Statesman, May 24, 1964. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Education
  • Educators
  • English and Journalism

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

DeWitt C. Reddick, “Thompson, Paul Jennings,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.