Photo by George Lauby
Frank at the Bulletin office, December 2008
Photo by the Llano Journal
Frank L. Graham, a Texas newsman who wrote thousands of in-depth reports on cops, robbers, courtroom disputes and the community of North Platte, moved on Tuesday to a higher place. The irrepressible Graham died Tuesday, Dec. 11 after being hospitalized at Scott & White Medical Center in Round Rock, Texas on Friday.
He had more than 33 years of experience in the newspaper business as a reporter, editor, publisher, sales director, marketing director and general manager.
He was born on Oct. 6, 1956 to Faye and Jeff Graham in Knox City, Texas.
The family tentatively has set a memorial service later in the year at the 4A Ranch at Oglesby, Texas, near Waco.
Graham launched The North Platte Bulletin in 2003 with the help of his closest friends, achieving the dream of many a newsman – having their own newspaper.
He lived in North Platte for 14 years. He left Nebraska in poor health in mid-2011 for his native Texas, to be near his family. There, he recovered over several weeks to become the editor of The Llano County Journal, where he worked for just one week short of a year.
Graham and four friends started The Bulletin in a town with a 100-year-old daily paper owned by the biggest news organization in several states.
He had alread distinguished himself as a lively, award-winning newsman and columnist, a highly energetic, contagiously congenial colleague at the North Platte Telegraph.He and his then-wife Laura Johnston launched The Bulletin in their basement, commanding creaky computers to crank out the first issues.
Graham never seemed to worry. He and Laura didn’t even lock the doors.
“I’m just going to roll it out,” he told his friends with an infectious grin. “We’ll see if it goes.”
His jauntiness and sincerity attracted friends to join in, including:
• retired blue collar worker Bob Gambs.
• computer whiz and entrepreneur Greg Hood;
• talented, experienced editor Laura Johnston;
• award-winning newsman and editor George Lauby;
• hard-working, conscientious ad representative Kyle Ferguson;
• sports writer Tad Stryker, who also helped run a Bible camp;
• award-winning graphic artist Mark Lewis.
Those friends and colleagues as well as many others helped in whatever way they could, opening their lives, hearts and wallets to make the paper fly.
Graham, Hood, Lauby and Johnston also launched a Bulletin website that featured live talkbacks -- where readers tell the world what they think about an article, uncensored and unedited.
Graham loved to cover cops, crimes and investigations. His courageous report of a local cocaine ring stunned the town and generated admiring, grateful comments throughout the community. The town knew The Bulletin had guts, grit and creativity – just what they wanted in a newspaper.
The paper became one of the 10 largest weeklies in Nebraska, where it remains today. It swept up 23 industry awards in its first year of eligibility.
Graham wrote about a horse in a car wash, wild storms (nearly wrecking his SUV in a hailstorm), a felon who nearly got a job at the courthouse, a sheriff drinking on duty, stupid misdemeanors, grizzly murders, lawsuits against prominent doctors, a dentist who ran investment scams, medical professionals under investigation for tax evasion, a fireman jailed for spousal abuse, property disputes, railroad accidents and groundwater pollution.
Graham dominated the writing competition at the 2007 Nebraska Press Awards, claiming two of the three top awards.
A judge that year wrote about The Bulletin: “Edgy reporting in cover packages, but does not overlook the staples of a community newspaper. This paper dares to be different!”
Graham treated everyone the same – with courtesy and charm – whether they were a convict or a business leader. If they did wrong, his reports antagonized them. When they were right, he held their respect. Often as not, those who resented him later became his friend. He was known for making friends out of sworn enemies. He did exceptional things every day.
At The Llano Journal, Graham was a professional, working in nearly every aspect of the operation, including managing operations, reporting, editing, photography, layout, and occasionally, sales, said Roy Bode, the president and publisher of The Journal.
He made more friends.
“All of us had great affection for him,” Bode said. “We’ll remember his friendly manner and winning smile, the joy he took from his three dogs, the gift of professionalism and a lifetime of experience he brought to the newspaper, and his dedication to the calling of journalism.”
Condolences for Frank's family can be sent to Frank’s brother J. Tom Graham, c/o The Frankston Citizen, PO Box 188, Frankston, TX 75763-0188.