Born in Pilot Grove: Edward Holmead Harte

Elizabeth Davis

Edward Holmead Harte was born Dec. 5, 1922, in Pilot Grove in Cooper County, the son of Houston and Caroline Isabel (McCutcheon) Harte. His father bought the San Angelo Standard-Times, in Texas, in 1920 and, in 1927, co-founded the Harte-Hanks newspaper conglomerate with Bernard Hanks.

Although he was born in Pilot Grove, Edward Harte grew up during the Great Depression in San Angelo, Texas, where his father published the Standard-Times. Young Harte’s first job as a teen was working for his father’s newspaper as a switchboard operator.

During World War II, Harte served in the army. Afterwards he attended Dartmouth College where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He started as a reporter for the Claremont Eagle in New Hampshire before moving to the Kansas City Star in Missouri.

Following in his father’s footsteps, he and his brother Houston Harriman Harte joined forces with Stormy Shelton, Hanks son-in-law, and bought The Snyder Daily News in Snyder, Texas.

In 1947, Harte married Janet Frey. Their union was blessed with two sons, Christopher and William, and two daughters, Elizabeth Owens and Julia Widdowson.

Harte worked his way up the newspaper ladder and, from 1952-1956, he was President of Harte-Hanks. From 1962 until his retirement in 1987, he was vice chairman of Harte-Hanks and publisher of The Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

The newspaper business wasn’t Harte’s only interest. As an environmental conservationist, he led a campaign in 1962 which designated 67 miles of Padre Island as national seashore. In 1964, Harte joined the National Audubon Society board, serving for 13 years; he was president of the board from 1974-1979. In the early 1970s he led another campaign which got almost 4,000 acres of Mustang Island designated a state park. Later, in 1985, he and his brother donated their 66,000-acre ranch which bordered Big Bend National Park to The Nature Conservancy. It, in turn, donated the land to Big Bend National Park in 1989.

Retirement did not mean the end of Edward Harte’s newspaper days. For a time he wrote a column which covered Mexican politics and current events.

During his lifetime Harte donated at least $70 million to local Corpus Christi organizations and institutions. The exact amount of his donations is unknown as many of them were made anonymously.

Harte’s wife Janet died in 1999. They had been married 52 years. Edward Harte lived another dozen years and died May 18, 2011.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008. She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she syndicated her column statewide in September 2018 and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to