Article about Caro Brown by Frankie Waits, February-March, 1956

Title

Article about Caro Brown by Frankie Waits, February-March, 1956

Subject

Brown, Caro

Description

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from Texas. Graduate of Texas Woman's University.
Spring 1956 news article by Frankie Waits about Caro Brown and her Pullitzer Prize-winning story. The article details how Brown came across the story and her experiences since. The article also mentions the death of her 7-year old son at the beginning of the investigation.

Date

1956

Contributor

Brown, Caro; Waits, Frankie

Rights

Materials may not be used without permission. For more information, contact us at (940) 898-3751 or womenshistory@twu.edu.

Format

1 pg.

Language

en

Type

Letters
Manuscripts

Identifier

MSS044_article_1956

Is Part Of

MSS 044, Caro Brown Papers

Accrual Method

Gift

Provenance

Sparks, Mary K.

Rights Holder

Woman's Collection, Texas Woman's University, P.O. Box 425528, Denton, TX 76204.

Text

CARO BROWN
By: FRANKIE WAITS Pulitzer prize winner

News was dull that January morning reporter Caro Brown walked down the hall of small, drab Jim Wells County courthouse in Alice, Texas.
She, a 100-pound, blue eyes newswoman for the Alice Daily Echo, edged near four men locked in conversation and “kept my jug ears sorta’ tuned in.”
What the 47-year-old housewife and mother heard was a gruff:
“I’ve had all I’m going to take off you and the way you’ve been handling things.” It was Texas Ranger Capt. Alfred Y. Allee talking to South Texas Political Boss George B. Parr.
Swiftly then, Ranger Joe Bridge slapped Sheriff Archer Parr (George Parr’s nephew) and Capt. Allee threw his gun from its holster into the political boss’ side.
“I went limp,” Caro recalled. “I thought I was going to see a killing. I ran to them screaming, ‘Don’t, Cap, don’t! Please, Cap, Don’t!’”
It was the reporter’s eye-witness account of Parr’s narrow escape that brought sensational Duval County story into focus for reading millions.
Two years of spadework by Caro and the momentum of a top running news story finally exposed 40 years of feudalistic politics in a desolate area torn bloody by political brawls that included murder.
And the reporter called “Brownie”-who began a small town career six years ago as a proofreader soon after the Echo went daily-wound up with the 1954 Pulitzer Prize.
The courthouse incident sometimes seems like yesterday to Caro, now retired from the city room where she wrote her big story.
But it was two years ago, Jan 18, 1954, and for her “things are awful dull around here now”
Dull because for 104 weeks she rode the hottest story in the state. With bulldog-like curiosity she dug up stories about desolate Duval County and its “Duke,” George Parr.
In 1952 the son of Parr’s arch political enemy was killed and the Duke’s name stuck on front pages.
Then came a desperate fight by the state “to clean up Duval.”
Early in 1955 the parade of state and federal investigators stopped and Parr was charged with income tax evasion and conspiracy to steal school funds.
Caro-who once went on an unauthorized ride and got kicked out of the only journalism school she ever attended, old College of Industrial Arts at Denton-was the only woman covering Duval.
Her 1954 Pulitzer Prize was for the year’s best on-deadline reporting. But it was a story that became an intense and personal project and one connected with personal tragedy for its star author.
In September, 1955, she was cited “outstanding Texas woman journalist of the year” by the Austin Chapter of Theta Sigma Phi, of which she is a new associate member.
The $1,000 Pulitzer Prize didn’t get Caro any wonderous job offers, no demand for speechmaking in her own home town until four months after the award, not even a raise.
“It was rough,” said Caro of the Duval coverage. “People weren’t used to hearing the truth.”
“Both sides treated me like Typhoid Mary. People would say, ‘Why don’t you stay home and wash dishes!”
But at times Caro was 50 per cent of the Echo’s staff. From the beginning of the Duval story she learned to slip in household duties between stories. Once she skipped lunch during a trial recess to take the family laundry.
Just as she began investigations into the county’s corrupt activities, her 7-year-old son was drowned. Caro almost quit.
“But I really needed this story to keep me going,” she said. A week after the funeral, she was back on the courthouse beat.
“For so long I had to handle it alone. I knew people were laughing at me, at my stories.”
All the while, she was a stringer for Associated Press “and they kept hounding me for stories.”
Once when she drive the 10 miles from Alice to Duval County, Caro called upon her 20-year-old son, Sam, to go with her and be her witness.
“I guess I got a little afraid,” she said.
The story of the “hip pocket votes,” graft, threats and intimidation to retain a political empire began to pour from Caro’s typewriter. Up-state reporters and touring writers swooped down on Duval County.
Yet there was but one “walking bibliography” of the Duke of Duval. And it was Caro.
She alone had dogged officials up to locked door before Duval became a news hub.
“I knew they were in there; I knew they were meeting. They knew I was on the other side of that door. But they also knew that when I asked questions nobody would answer.”
When the doors opened and Caro walked in for her story, she found only empty rooms.
“They had skipped out the back door. I was stranded, furious, frustrated. I was washed up. I had no story. They played a cat and mouse game just to baffle me.”
But the games stopped.
Eyes that finally focused on Duval County kept a close watch.
“I never would have had the story.” Caro said, “if newspapers had been doing their jobs for the last 40 years. Duval County is the horrible example of what can happen.”
In Jim Well County now, the mesquite tree are glowing with the dull fiber of color that spells winter along the rolling coastal plains above the Rio Grande.
“The woman with the Pulitzer Prize” lives on Alice’s East Fourth Street with her civil engineer husband, Jack, her 18-year-old daughter, Carolou, and her college son, Sam.
A 5-inch-thick scrapbook labeled “Duval County Story” is there, and inside is a first-person story that begin:
“I’ve learned never to leave the scene, even when things are dull.”
FEBRUARY-MARCH, 1956 17

Files

MSS044_article_1956.jpg

Collection

Citation

“Article about Caro Brown by Frankie Waits, February-March, 1956,” TWU Digital Exhibits, accessed June 18, 2024, http://exhibits.twu.edu/ex/items/show/224.