Washington Press Club Foundation


Vivian Castleberry was the women's editor of the Dallas Times Herald for twenty-eight years. Vivian is a native Texan and a distinguished and much loved member of the Dallas community to which she has contributed enormously as a journalist and a citizen activist. Vivian insisted on meeting me at the Dallas Ft. Worth airport when I arrived in June 1989 to work with her on this oral history. We sensed an instant rapport and the beginnings of a strong friendship from that first meeting at the airport.

Vivian and I held our three days of interviewing at my hotel room at the Hilton Inn and at her home on Buchanan which she had recently given over to her newly-married fourth daughter Kimberley. I returned in October 1989 to do a videotaped interview with Vivian at the retirement home her husband Curtis is building singlehandedly on the shores of a beautiful lake in East Texas, several hours from Dallas. Before traveling to East Texas, Vivian arranged a gathering of friends to meet me at the Dallas Press Club. Working with Vivian was a pleasure for many reasons, including her delightful and open personality, her remarkable memory, her exciting career as a journalist, her imaginative storytelling and her deep and abiding values as a woman dedicated to righting wrongs, improving the lot of those ignored by society and working towards global peace.

Before going to Dallas I spoke with journalists Dorothy Jurney, Molly Ivins, Bert Holmes and Charlie Dameron of the Dallas Times Herald and Caroline Barta of the Dallas Morning News, all of whom had enormous praise for Vivian Castleberry. Caroline Barta stated that Vivian Castleberry is "the grandmother of women in journalism in Dallas." Molly Ivins told me that Vivian had a remarkable sensitivity to news that women wanted to know and how that news should be covered by women, for women. Bert Holmes called Vivian a "journalistic pioneer" whose influence continues to be felt in newspapers across the country. I also spoke with Gail Smith, Mary Vogelson and Liz Carpenter, women active in the Dallas or larger Texas communities. Later, in Dallas, I spoke with activists Ginny Whitehill, Maura McNiel and Barbara Middleton. Liz Carpenter best summarized their collective praise for Vivian when she said that Vivian is "beloved" in Dallas because "she made all the difference" as the "godmother of the women's movement in Dallas."

Even with all this advance praise for Vivian Castleberry I could not have been fully prepared for the account she would give in her oral history. Vivian has been a journalist since editing her high school newspaper. As women's editor of the Dallas Times Herald she was also the first woman appointed to the newspaper's editorial board. Vivian won three awards given by the Press Club of Dallas, two state UPI awards and two J.C. Penney/University of Missouri awards. Vivian was elected to the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1984. She is a founder of the Women's Center of Dallas, Women's Issues Network, the Dallas Women's Foundation and is currently writing a book on the history of women in Dallas. Vivian was the chair of Global Peace, an international women's conference which drew 2,000 participants from 37 states and 57 countries in 1988.

Vivian Castleberry was interviewed for this oral history project because she was one of the pioneering women journalists who transformed women's pages from what Molly Ivins calls "fluff and drivel" to substantive news about women, their lives and the communities in which they live. Vivian's coverage of news was deeply influenced by her commitment to the Dallas women's community and her sense of responsibility as a journalist to not only report the news but to expose the injustices of society to the scrutiny of her readers. Vivian recounted that her intention was never to be objective as a journalist. Rather, Vivian was a journalist who sought to be a force for good, believing that her obligation was not to management but to her readership and the world at large.

Anne Kasper


VIVIAN ANDERSON CASTLEBERRY is a native Texan, born in Lindale and reared in Athens where she graduated as valedictorian from her high school in 1940. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University and a Distinguished Alumnae. A lifelong journalist, she edited her high school newspaper, edited The Campus, the SMU newspaper, and was the first women's editor of the Texas A&M Battalion, a job she created and held while her husband, Curtis was a student at A&M following World War II.

Vivian was women's editor of the Dallas Times Herald for 28 years, from 1956-1984. She headed the Living section of the paper and was the first woman named to the paper's editorial board. She won numerous journalistic awards including three "Katie" awards given by the Press Club of Dallas, two stated United Press International awards, a state Headliners award, two University of Missouri awards for overall excellence of women's pages, a Southwestern Journalism Forum award and the Buck Marryat Award given by the Press Club of Dallas for "outstanding contributions to communications."

In 1959 Vivian was a participant in the first conference held for women's editors by the American Press Institute at Columbia University, a bench mark gathering of American women journalists.

She was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1984 and has been honored with the Laurel Award given by the American Association of University Women; a Women Helping Women Award given by the Women's Center of Dallas; a Women Helping Women Award given by the Soroptimist Club, and the Extra Mile Award given by the Business and Professional Women's Club.

Vivian is a founder of the Women's Center of Dallas, a founder of Women's Issues Network (WIN) and a founder of the Dallas Women's Foundation. She served on the advisory panel for the founding of the Family Place, Dallas' haven for battered women and their children, and has been an adviser for SMU's Symposium on the Education of Women for Social and Political Leadership since its beginning in 1966. She has served on the advisory boards of the Women's Center and the Incest Recovery Center, the long-range planning committee of the Dallas Women's Foundation and the leadership development committee for the Greater Dallas Community of Churches. She has served on the general board, and as chairperson of the board of her church, First Community/United Church of Christ.

Since she took early retirement in May of 1984, Vivian is writing a book on the contributions of women to the City of Dallas. She serves as a consultant to other writers and has tailored and teaches a course called "The Age of Choice" through the GDCC and the Community Colleges. She makes numerous speeches.

Devoted to peaceful resolution of conflicts, she has made two trips to the Soviet Union as a "grassroots Citizen Diplomat." She co-led the second of these trips, a Women in Leadership Conference in Leningrad and Moscow in April-May of 1986. In June of 1987, she again co-led a conference in the USSR taking American grandmothers, mothers and teenagers for intergenerational dialogue.

Vivian is married to Curtis W. Castleberry, a retired high school teacher. Together they raised five daughters. She has seven grandchildren.

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