Bill Holder, a Panola County native who served as the Panola Watchman’s publisher for 20 years and also supervised 15 East Texas newspapers under ASP Westward, died Thursday.
He was 72.
“It was a pleasure to follow in Bill’s footsteps,” Panola Watchman Publisher Jerry Pye said. He did an outstanding job leading the Panola Watchman on behalf of the community of Carthage. He was an asset to our industry. His heart and passion was for Panola County. He will be missed.”
Funeral services have been set for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24 at Central Baptist Church, 220 W. Sabine St. in Carthage. Visitation will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23 at Hawthorn Funeral Home, 307 W. Wellington in Carthage.
Holder grew up in the Snap Community, graduating from Carthage High School in 1965 and Panola College in 1967. He married Pat Vaden, raised daughter Angie Holder-Brumley and celebrated 31 years of marriage before her death. In 1998, he married Mary Sue Rountree Pippen. Holder and his wife were together nearly 21 years until his death Thursday.
He ran Ben Franklin grocery stores in Marshall and Farmersville and Crowley, Louisiana before moving back to Carthage in 1972. He owned Bill’s Superette, a small grocery and meat market at East Sabine Street and MLK Boulevard for 17 years before joining the Watchman staff in December 1989 as an advertising salesman.
From there, he worked his way up to the top job and would eventually oversee the operation of 15 East Texas newspapers within his role as vice president in ASP Westward’s East Texas Community Newspapers group.
Holder was active in community life, serving as past president of the Carthage Noon Lions Club, as board member for the Panola County Chamber of Commerce and as a board member with the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. He was also honored as the 2013 Panola County Citizen of the Year.
He attended Central Baptist Church, taught the Maranatha Sunday School class and was a strong supporter of Mission Carthage throughout his life.
Son-in-law Philip Brumley recalled Holder’s tremendous sense of humor and his devotion to his daughter and wife. “Unflappable” was another word that came to mind, Brumley said. The harder things got, the more calm Holder got, Brumley said.
“Everybody highly respected him here,” Brumley said. “He was a great leader. The people who were here generally worked for a long time for him. He had a real way of earning people’s respect.”
As he was getting ready to retire from the Watchman, Holder recalled several major news stories from his career, including explosions at the gas plant on U.S. 79 and a hostage situation at the Carthage Cup Factory in 1995. The Watchman’s reporting of convicted murderer Bernie Tiede drew national attention — and personal reflection from Holder.
“I spent one August afternoon with Bernie Tiede working on advertising for Boot Scootin’ Western Wear; he was arrested later that night at the Jalapeño Tree,” Holder told reporter Rodger G. McLane for a 2013 story on Holder’s upcoming retirement. “At the time I thought about how emotions could drive someone to kill someone else. I thought he was a pretty nice guy, but greed got the best of him.”
When recalling his former boss on Friday, McLane said Holder “never belittled or spoke down to his people. He cared about you.” McLane worked for Holder for four years.
“He was a firm believer in old school, small town journalism rooted in knowing your neighbors and the community. Our town will be worse off without him,” McLane said.
Former Watchman Editor Elaine P. McPherson called Holder “the best boss I ever had.” McPherson served as editor between 2000 and 2007.
“He always had my back,” McPherson said. “He let you do your job without hovering. He always backed my decisions as editor. Bill also was generally up on what was going on in the county and gave me many story ideas. He was a friend I could talk to about family and medical problems. He cared.”
Before retiring, Holder told McLane he “wanted to be a publisher in the background, not foreground.”
“My favorite part of the job is being the keeper of history,” Holder said in 2013. “I take that very seriously because we’re the only ones who keep a record of our county’s history. People are always interested to know what happened in the past.”