At RJI, we’ve been working to improve how we share information with our readers.


Reynolds — Global traveler and reporter

Donald W. Reynolds, world traveler“Work is the most interesting thing I do,” Donald W. Reynolds told his biographer. A major part of that work for decades was travel.

Reynolds attempted to visit each unit of the group on a regular basis. He also made numerous trips abroad, frequently sending feature articles to his newspapers. He met many famous individuals during these travels, providing his publications with stories not available from the wire services.

With 900 mules

Reynolds first international trip was in 1926 as part of an initiation requirement for the Quo Vadis Society at the University of Missouri. Quo Vadis had been organized shortly after the Spanish-American War by some of the Missouri students who had enlisted to fight in this 90-day excursion against Spain.

Membership was invitational and in those days before hitchhiking existed, one of the requirements for initiation was that the selected pledges complete a trip of at least a thousand miles without personal expense to themselves. Reynolds recounted the experience for him and his 5 classmate.

“Up until 1926 the requirement had usually been met by bumming a trip on one of the many empty freight trains serving the Middle West. A part of the ritual had to do with brakeman signals, railroad torpedo signals and all of the fascinating abracadabra associated with the knights of the road. The coveted membership pin was a small replica of an opened tin can. On this golden pin were the words “Quo Vadis.’ The reply to this challenge was the rather liberal translation of ‘Where goest thou?’ Outside of an occasional amputated leg and the constant enmity of all railroad cops the fraternity grew and prospered.

“The six of us selected pledges met to decide just how we were to earn our pins. Lindbergh 's lone-eagle flight to Paris was still away but the idea of a European voyage was fascinating — particularly to me, since at nineteen I still had to get my first glimpse of the Atlantic ocean!

“The father of one of the pledges operated a commission house in the East St. Louis stockyards. In 1926 East St. Louis was the center of the Missouri mule auctions. And the Missouri mule was the standard work animal throughout the world. Tractors that the average farmer in the Midwest could afford were just coming on the market and the mule was on his way out as a farm animal. The surplus animals were being shipped to Europe, largely Italy and Spain. The small ocean going boats would usually load at New Orleans, selecting their cargo from the large loads of these hybrids coming down the Mississippi from East St. Louis.

“Here was our opportunity. Acting as chamber maid to a load of mules wasn't a very glamorous occupation, but it paid a dollar a day and board, and most important, enabled the six of us to stick together.

“We signed on, and in due course arrived in New Orleans. The barges were built like cattle cars. The pens could be cleaned with pressure hoses and other than a little feed to be thrown to the mules every day we had nothing much to do. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer on the private raft down the Mississippi had nothing on us. It was a nice lazy ten days.

“The mules were loaded by professional stevedores onto the little 8,000-ton British steamer, about a thousand of them, together with hay and a little grain. We were signed on as ‘work-a-ways,’ given seaman’s apprentice cards and told the next stop would be Barcelona, Spain. The one smart and intelligent thing we did was to each buy a case of canned pork and beans. It was appropos of our Quo Vadis symbol, and besides, we liked pork and beans. We were two days winding our way through the mouth of the Father of Waters still living the life of Riley. Then we hit the Gulf of Mexico. The ship started to roll.

“There is no greater truism than ‘sick as a mule,’ particularly if it is a sea sick mule. They won 't eat, they won’t drink, they just kick, bite and die. And the only way to dispose of a dead mule from the hold of a tramp freighter is to go down in that hold, put a sling under the mule, hoist him out and drop him overboard. By the sixth day out the entire bunch of mules had decided all their troubles were obviously caused by the six green work-a-ways that had to go down in the hold each day.

“Never before nor since have I seen such fantastic team work, such devotion to a single thought as nine hundred odd mules demonstrated after they made up their minds to get rid of we six authors of their troubles.

“That they failed was due entirely to luck. We soon decided that despite college educations and two Phi Beta Kappa keys we would never be as smart as a Missouri mule with his mind made up.

“Thirty years later I am on the S. S. African Enterprise, a modern, trim American-built passenger and freighter combination. It's air-conditioned; each stateroom has a private bath. The meals are excellent. The Captain’s cocktail party was well attended by orchid-corsaged and mink-covered guests together with their dinner-coated escorts. Yet, this morning I awoke with nostalgic thoughts — there was a reminiscent odor about the trip. I went on the stern deck just a few minutes ago. There in two ten by fifteen foot crates, covered with signs of ‘keep away, do not feed’ were two well groomed, carefully attended horses enroute to Capetown, South Africa.

“After thirty years and fifteen Atlantic and Pacific crossings I can state one unequivocable fact — regardless of the ship both horses and mules smell exactly alike!”

Foreign correspondent

In 1934, when things were rather quiet with the Marsh organization during this Depression and with Marsh’s assistance, Reynolds worked out what he thought was to be a good arrangement with United Press to become a stringer, paid on space basis, serving more or less as a roving correspondent out of the London office of the United Press.

Arrangements made by Clem Randau of the UP New York office provided for Reynolds to work under one of the wire service’s top war correspondents, Webb Miller. Reynolds also was provided with introductory letters to various UP bureau chiefs in Berlin, Paris, and Rome. Paying his own expenses, Reynolds went to London. Hitler at the time was refortifying Europe and Mussolini had started on his Ethiopian adventure. There was a plebiscite held on the Saar and the Italians started embarking troops for Africa.

Reynolds, who at the time found international finance difficult to comprehend, soon learned that the value of the American dollar was dropping rapidly. When the United States went off the gold standard, Reynolds’ meager earnings from the United Press were halved when converted to European currency.

Although he got as far as Naples with part of the Italian army, Reynolds found that the majority of the routine stories were being covered by regular UP staffers while a stringer found it extremely difficult to survive. Deciding he no longer wanted to dip into his capital, Reynolds returned home by way of Berlin in 1935, returning to the newspaper business.

Why did Reynolds turn to an editorial pursuit at this time, when he had been so successful in management?

“This was probably the best way one could get to Europe,” Reynolds said, “And I wanted to go to Europe.”

WW II service

As war clouds formed over America, a draft system was placed in operation in 1940 and soon young men were called to active duty to serve for one year. National Guard units were placed on a similar year's tour of duty. Reynolds was technically on an inactive status because of his correspondence work from his ROTC days at the University of Missouri.

In 1942, Reynolds was called to service in the Army and served for three years. Reynolds reported to the Pine Bluff, Arkansas, arsenal as unassigned. Within three months, Reynolds, on the basis of his previous training and his commission from ROTC and the follow-up correspondence work, was transferred to the military intelligence unit in Washington, D.C. While there, he was promoted to first lieutenant. Through the message center he learned of plans for Yank magazine to publish an edition in Australia. Few persons wanted to leave a safe assignment at a desk job in Washington for service in the Pacific at a time when the Japanese were busily over-running the islands. Reynolds asked for the assignment. He was appointed officer in charge of the magazine while arrangements were being made for its printing in Sydney.

He insisted the magazine be sold, not given away. The price — a nickel a copy. It was distributed to the entire Pacific area. General Douglas MacArthur promoted Reynolds to captain and awarded him the Legion of Merit for his activities. Following MacArthur’s famous “Old Soldiers Never Die” speech before Congress, the American Society of Newspaper Editors held a reception in Washington. When Reynolds went through the line to greet the general, MacArthur recognized him from their days in the Pacific.

In the war in Europe, the officer in charge of Yank in London was having some difficulties because of his lack of newspaper training. Reynolds, promoted to major, was transferred to London and given the responsibility for this largest of the Yank editions. Among his innovations — truck-bed printing to distributed the magazine to the fast advancing troops.

Reynolds had a narrow brush with death when a German shell struck a reconnaissance plane over the Normandy coast just two months before the Normandy landing. Fragments of hot metal wounded him in the face, neck and shoulder. For this, Reynolds was awarded the Purple Heart and for his service in Europe he received the Bronze Star from General Dwight Eisenhower.

At the age of 38, with nearly thirty months of overseas duty to his credit, Reynolds applied for release from active duty. The invasion had been successful in Europe, and Paris and Rome editions had been added by Yank. On February 3, 1945, Reynolds was released. He recalled his service in a 1970s interview.

Covers Korean peace talks

Several of Reynolds’ overseas trips corresponded to significant historical occasions. For example, he was in Pusan, Korea, during the peace negotiations in 1951. The correspondents, as well as most of the negotiators, were housed in railway coaches that certainly left something to be desired. Since the talks dragged on interminably, it was months before the negotiators worked out an uneasy settlement. Reynolds, who made arrangements to return to South Korea, recalled this occasion as being very dull, since the representatives of the various nations involved worked at a pace much slower than he was accustomed to in his daily activities.

Interviews Prime Minister Nehru

Reynolds had a lengthy interview with Prime Minster Jawaharal Nehru in New Delhi on March 11, 1957. He portrayed Nehru as an individual with “the political charm of Franklin Roosevelt, the personal popularity of Dwight Eisenhower, the articulate loyalty of Winston Churchill.” And he added, “the financial astuteness of a senior Rockefeller or Morgan” to provide the picture of the leader of one-sixth of the earth's people.

The slight, well-groomed, 67-year-old man was seated at his tremendous desk in an office typical of a successful American executive when Reynolds met with him. Describing the event, Reynolds wrote:

“It was 5:30 in the afternoon. Mr .Nehru had been at work since early morning and the reception room in which I had a momentary wait was filled with people who expected to see him after I left. I knew that his schedule was full and that early the following morning he was leaving for an election campaign in which all India is currently engaged.

“Even so, my 15-minute appointment grew into over an hour as this brilliantly articulate man explained with concise figures what had been accomplished in building India since its freedom from British rule as well as his hopes for the next five years.

“I pointed out that the average American felt that India was leaning in the direction of communism rather than toward the western democracies, that some of us felt that our system of foreign aid was a waste of money, particularly to those countries from which we were unable to secure tangible commitments in the cold war.

“I was informed that India felt that the most important thing for the world today was to have a fellowship of strong and efficient nations and that without a strong country, India could not be a helpful ally to anyone.

“Therefore the first duty of the country and its leaders was to attempt to make it strong and self-supporting--in other words, follow the same pattern as developed by the United States during the first hundred years of its existence as a nation.

“I was reminded that our own country, for the period prior to the last world war, had grown great and powerful without foreign commitments.

“The recognized fact that modern communications and methods of travel made the globe a more closely knit world was even more reason for being certain that no part of the world could remain economically insolvent without adversely affecting the remaining people.”

Africa game hunts

While in Africa, Reynolds participated in several big game hunts.

One of his more interesting encounters was vividly described in this account of the incident. When he observed everyone about him displaying excitement he was confused until he learned the cause:

“Not having mastered all the intricacies of Swahili you haven't the slightest idea as to what is going on or what has happened.

“When the rest of the boys start grabbing rocks and chunking them at your feet you begin to have a rather queer feeling.

“The professional hunter comes up and very quietly says ‘Don, don't breath — I would move for a minute or two if I were you. The boy just saw a puff adder at your feet.’

“I suppose that somewhere in the world there is an iron nerved guy that would have had sense enough to have followed the suggestion and nonchalantly stood there. As for me, I'm sure that there isn't a man on the recent Olympic teams, U.S.A. or Russia, that could have touched the record I undoubtedly established for the standing broadjump.

“There isn't a jet projectile that could have touched me, let alone a little old puff adder!

“Once I was out of the way they finished off the snake in short order. Quite frankly if I never again see so much as an angle worm the rest of my life it’s quite all right with me!

“Back many years ago when I was in journalism school, Colonel William Rockhill Nelson was one of our patron saints, based on his outstanding job of building the Kansas City Star.

“One of the interesting quirks in his biography was his abhorrence of snakes.

“So strong was this phobia that he not only forbade the use of reptile pictures in the Star, but even prohibited the mention of snakes in his news columns.

“Smart guy, that fellow Nelson!”

Reynolds later encountered his first rhino. One of the keen­-eyed native hunt staff had found rhino tracks. After several hours of tracking the rhino, the group returned to camp with plans for resuming the hunt the next morning when they started again after a 4 am breakfast. Reynolds described the ensuing campaign as follows:

“It was almost 9 o’clock by the time we had picked up the trail, so we then left the jeep and started walking. Theoretically from that point on it is merely a matter of endurance. The trail is fairly plain and it’s just a question of who gives up first. By noon I was ready to stop, in fact more than ready — so much so that I couldn't conceive of why anyone wanted a rhino in the first place.

“A half hour rest, a warm can of beer and the world’s greatest fight talk got me up and on my way. Fresh signs indicated that we were getting close and sure enough the big gray animal was resting about 100 yards ahead of us in some brush.

“We sneaked up about fifty yards and let go.

“The clever professional hunter always carries the same caliber gun as his client. In this case we both had double-barrel .470 rifles. We had practiced dozens of times on the ‘one, two, three’ routine with both of us firing on the third count.

“The big boy slowly got up and ambled away.

“We both banged again and he didn't even slow down. It wasn't at all surprising that I could have missed him, but a little inconceivable that John had, too.

“We didn't want to follow him immediately into the brush, so we waited about 10 minutes, reloaded and started in.

“Fifteen feet from where we first had spotted him we saw lots of blood and knew that at least he had been hit. Another hundred yards or so, and there he was, dead as a door nail!

“Being a very diplomatic guy, Sullivan insisted that it was my shot that got him. It's the old story as to which tooth of the buzz saw cut you, but in this case I’ll at least wind up with the head, a table top, four hoofs and a quirt.

“When we arrived back in camp the men had quite a celebration, dancing, cheering and lifting us up on their shoulders for a regular parade.

“Confidentially, I could not have hit a barn unless I had gotten inside and closed the door but I'll never admit that he isn't my trophy — and I'm sure as the story will continue to bore my friends over the years it will ultimately be told as a single handed hunt in which I killed him with a switch! Certainly this account is as exciting as some of the thrillers written by James Fenimore Cooper.”

1966 trip to London

A 1966 trip carried Reynolds to England where he observed the changes since his last visit and the charm of London. Later he visited Paris, Madrid, and Lisbon. His observations are acute; his knowledge of history is apparent in these articles. On occasions his knowledge of early Biblical studies finds its place in his commentaries. The following paragraphs reveal Reynold s' powers of observation and his awareness of contemporary fads:

“Harold Wilson, at 50 the youngest prime minister of the century, is classed as a stuffy old man by the swingers from West End. London, with its usual horrible spring weather, is a city of rainwear. Joseph and his Biblical coat of many colors has had a happy reincarnation for the younger generation both male and female. The young men sport hair as long as their female partners, but strangely enough very few beards are about. All young men are 'Beatles' and all young women are ‘Birds.’ The tight-trousered men with their flowing locks and oversize ties make quite a spectacle strolling through Hyde Park with their girl friends that seemingly have just escaped from the burlesque theatre dressing room.

“A couple of generations ago the question as to what a Scotsman wore under his kilts brought a snicker and a variety of answers. Today what the birds wear under their skirts may be something of a secret as she strolls along but when she is sitting down the whole world knows. Leotards, tights and frilly drawers leave nothing to the imagination. There are almost two and a half million young adults and working teenagers in the London area. Nothing so stamps me as approaching senility as my embarrassment with the frank talk of today’s young folks.”

As a resident of Las Vegas, Reynolds certainly was interested in the gambling situation in England and he knew many readers of his Review Journal would share his observations. He noted that “Gambling has come out from behind the iron barred doors. There are clusters of gaming clubs reminiscent much more of the Monte Carlo that was than of the Nevada palaces that are. A few crap tables, a few slot machines, but always the ambiguous roulette wheel.” Gambling, which had been legalized for six years, was apparently doing an excellent business in England. “There are afternoon bingo halls and bookies will take a wager on anything from elections to whether or not a greyhound will actually finish the race he has started,” Reynolds observed.

The American tourist could look at the past and view the present with mixed emotions, as he noted the changes then taking place in London:

“The stately quietness of carriages, the charm of Dorchester and the comfort of the Savoy may all disappear as these hostelries fight for their lives against a new 30-story Hilton Hotel. Ancient Lloyds, a coffee house genesis of all insurance companies, will soon be completely overshadowed by a tremendous office building complex. Progress is great, I guess.”

Arthritis trip, 1971

In 1971 Reynolds again visited the continent. From Bucharest, Romania, he wrote about his long battle with arthritis, a subject of concern to millions of Americans and many of his newspaper readers.

“If you can't tell it is going to rain hours before the first cloud appears in the sky; if your grandfather never carried a new potato in his pocket to ward off rheumatism; if you have never shopped for a copper bracelet from an Indian reservation — and if growing old doesn’t bother you perhaps you had better turn to the comic page for this letter isn't for you,” he wrote.

Reynolds had problems connected with arthritis since the early forties. He acknowledged the “guinea pig role” he took as he visited clinics “from Pacific Island mud baths to recognized American sanitariums with Switzerland, Germany and now Romania thrown in.” Surrounded by attendants speaking only Romanian made Reynolds “an expert in pantomime” during his stay in Romania. He underwent many tests and wrote that “After ten days I have been needled in my arm, my hips, my leg and intravenously. Speaking of pin cushions, I'm now an authority on the human type.”

He discussed the treatments at the Institute of Geriatrics, whose facilities were housed in an area originally built by King Carol as his love nest. Although obviously in pain from his arthritis, Reynolds was able to provide a lighter approach to this serious story.

He concluded that “It is possible that when searching for the Fountain of Youth, Ponce de Leon missed a good bet here in the Balkans. Licenses have been issued to manufacture (Gerovital H-13) in Britain, Holland and Switzerland. Now if it will only work, I'll make that 150 mark that I've always been planning on!'” According to 1975 reports Gerovital was being tested in the United States as an antidepressant. Its importation to the US was band in 1982.

After twelve days in the sanitarium in Bucharest, Reynolds spent a night out in the city, only to find it “very, very boring.” The food was more of “the eternal corn meal mush and cheese with a pretty tired piece of chicken.” A waitress’ knowledge of English totaled two words, “Of course.” On his next trip there, Reynolds promised himself that he would take the best advice he had had all evening, “Go to the opera.”

Spain was also on this tour. Reynolds noted that the Spanish press continued to print rumors of splits inside the cabinet as well as comments about the revolutionaries. He developed a fondness for this country and the western headquarters for the Donrey Media Group were fashioned after a castle Reynolds saw in Spain. Several pictures in these headquarters were commissioned by Reynolds. They feature a Spanish atmosphere.

Europe and Morocco, 1973

For another first-hand perspective of the European situation, Reynolds made a trip there in 1973. He was searching for more information concerning the continent, its economy, and its future. He considered Madrid a pleasant place to visit, noting that “The streets are safe at all hours, law and order is respected, there are no racial disturbances and the vast majority of Spaniards happily enjoy their good fortune.” Recalling that 34 years earlier Francisco Franco had taken over the government, Reynolds concluded his report by noting that “Just perhaps a so called working democracy isn 't the best of all lives!”

Morocco offered the visitor the best of two worlds. To Reynolds, “It is Africa with European overtures; an independent Arab state--the nearest of the far away lands.” He also noted that “Girls in the briefest of mini skirts mingle with the more traditionally clad women in floor length Kaftans, hidden behind veils that leave only the eyes showing.” While in this area Reynolds purchased some Arabic prayer rugs, attractive brass trays, a burnoose and a Kaftan with assorted daggers and boots. The Moorish articles were used to help furnish the Spanish-type offices in the group's western headquarters in Las Vegas.

Several days later Reynolds was in Germany, reflecting on that nation’s two global defeats and its tremendous economic growth following the last major war. Reynolds felt “the average German has learned his lesson — stay out of the Koreas, the Central and South American military adventures, and most of all, the Soviet adjoining states of Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia.”

In Sweden Reynolds had a feeling that the people were becoming more dissatisfied with their government and were emigrating to America in growing numbers. “As is to be expected, the heavy hand of government control, along with the highest tax rate in the Western World, contributes to the frustration.

“We will always be on the receiving end of this dislike until we too are pulled down to the Swedish level of socialism, an unfortunate fate toward which we are rapidly moving,” Reynolds concluded.

In another article from Sweden he referred to the “middle way mediocrity” that prevailed in that nation. As a prime example of a successful man operating in a free enterprise system, Reynolds no doubt viewed these experiments with skepticism.

While in Denmark, Reynolds learned about the Penn Central Railroad bankruptcy in the United States. It prompted him to reflect about the joys of passenger rail travel in earlier generations, yet he also recalled some of the sadder elements. “Time has a habit of slipping by quite noiselessly, and in the process dulling the memory. There was nothing glamorous about such travel. The chair coach of a few years ago offered a smell of bananas and orange peelings overlaid with a coating of coal dust. The rest rooms were invariably filthy and the occupants of the next seat just as invariably brought along their two-day old lunches.”

Even in Copenhagen, Reynolds experienced a most uncomfortable journey when he spent hours in an overcrowded, overheated bus visiting the Hamlet country made famous by Shakespeare in his plays. After this gruesome trip, Reynolds concluded that “my first contact with William Shakespeare was in my high school English course. I am now, more than ever, perfectly content to leave him there.”

Holland was more delightful, especially the pleasant boat ride around Amsterdam. “Facades of three century old buildings have been carefully reconstructed under strict government supervision and the houses of the early Dutch merchant princes still sparkle.” Nevertheless, he warned tourists about the “rotten spoiled villagers” who ill-manneredly insult the “foreign suckers” for their money. He even found three-day old newspapers on his KLM plane, indicating to him a rather lax cleanliness policy.

Back in England again Reynolds heard “unpublished gossip” about a divorce or a separation within the Royal family. “Not since December 11, 1936, when King Edward VIII became the Duke of Windsor have the prospects been so good for another throne shaking scandal. But a monarchy that has survived a Henry VIII as well as a George III can certainly be expected to muddle through much smaller problems.”

Reynolds continued his visit to Ireland, spending some time in the famous Gresham 's Hotel in Dublin, before returning to America.

Readers of Donrey newspapers shared Reynolds’ accounts of his travels and his investigations of newsworthy events as he went about the world. He was apparently able to provide a more informal approach to serious topics, giving one a feeling of being with Reynolds during these journeys. No doubt they too would disagree with Reynolds when he said he was not a good writer. He may not have been so fast with the type­ writer, yet his word pictures became vividly clear to the readers.

Reynolds — The individual

 Don Reynolds used his clasped hands gesture to signify satisfaction.Reynolds told professor taft, his biographer, “I am not certain that I have experienced the complete life, but if I had it to do over again I rather imagine that the end result would be about as it is today.

Life focus — His work

Work remained a natural and acceptable part of Donald W. Reynolds’ life. While many individuals look forward to retirement at 65 or even earlier, Reynolds viewed his busy schedule as one of his dominant interests, an exciting part of his daily life. He viewed a crowded desk as a challenge; a series of decisions as another opportunity to move ahead in his chosen field.

Preferring not to be bothered with many of the minor decisions of the day-by-day operations of the Donrey Media Group, Reynolds still participated in the major activities and the policy making rules as he traveled extensively from one operation to another within his group. He loved the “results” one received from such traveling; the achievements made on these thousands of miles from Hawaii to Indiana, and from the state of Washington to the lower portion of Texas, made Reynolds feel better. Such travels provided him with a feeling of achievement.

Selling as well as buying

Reynolds did not believe one should not spend much time or effort regretting disappointments. “We have been in and out of several small markets that after it was demonstrated that they were unprofitable, we felt that they could best be operated by individuals rather than through group control,” he said.

For this reason, Reynolds sold his newspapers in Juneau, Alaska, Fallon and Winnemucca, Nevada, and Natchez, Mississippi, after they failed to find an appropriate place within the Donrey Media mold. The sale in Alaska, which was profitable, eventually proved to be quite wise, since the state later voted to move the capitol from Juneau to an area closer to Anchorage. The newly developed oil fields in that portion of the continent are more than a thousand miles from Juneau without any major interconnecting highways or railroads.

What he called “heavy handed government bureaucracy that controls broadcasting” through the Federal Communications Commission caused Reynolds to drop out of some markets. When the pressure from the FCC began to be felt by media groups across America, Reynolds sold one of his television outlets, KFSA-TV, in Fort Smith. In an article on “The American Media Barrons,” the Atlantic Monthly in 1969 named Reynolds as an example of one man dominating a city’s media. At the time, he owned the two newspapers there, the only television station, and a radio station.

Earlier, Reynolds attempted to develop a profitable station in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but after two years of losses and the FCC limitation of five television stations to each individual owner, he sold out. He also sold his radio stations in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and Laredo, Texas, where he had other media.

In the mid-1970s, Reynolds owned interests in CATV in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Vallejo, Calif . He entered this field because he visualized the CATV system as being useful for facsimile newspapers. During the Thirties some publishers experimented with the facsimile process but at that time the costs were so prohibitive that the projects could not be widely adopted. Some publishers saw a possibility of combining this technique with CATV; Reynolds among them.

Endorsement of Lyndon Johnson

Reynolds was always a registered Democrat. The first opportunity he had to vote for a presidential candidate was in 1928, when he cast his ballot for Al Smith.

In only one major campaign did Reynolds actively work for a national candidate, with a personal interest of being named the ambassador to Australia, a country he enjoyed during World War II. He believed no one should take such a position unless he can speak the native language which limited his possibilities.

In 1964, he actively worked for President Lyndon Johnson's re-election. “I thought he was the better candidate and since we had been personal friends for many years we did what we could to support him,” Reynolds recalled. The two had become friends through their close associations with Charles Marsh, who had known Johnson since the early Thirties.

“There was no group action from the standpoint of dictated editorials and such,” Reynolds said, “but I believed that most of the executives in the organization also supported Johnson in this election.”

Early in 1964, Reynolds spent more than an hour visiting with Johnson in Washington and later told reporters that a survey of his editors had disclosed that as a group they were “quite happy with the President’s performance during his first 100 days in office.” He added, “I don't believe there's been any secret about our admiration for Mr. Johnson. We will work with him to send congressmen and senators back to Washington and will support his policies. Each Donrey editor handles such political situations as it behooves him in the community in which he operates.”

Life outside of work

Reynolds has a catholic taste in his readings. He has, for example, many cookbooks from around the world. On his many journeys he had acquired a liking for gourmet cooking, an interest shared with his son, Jonathan. When Jonathan visited his father in Las Vegas they often experimented with unusual foods.

Reynolds enjoyed the outdoor life when time permitted. Early in his career when Oklahoma was considering a bill to permit gambling on horse races, he acquired some race horses and constructed a stable outside of Okmulgee, which he added to the group 's training center there. The center was on the banks of Lake Okmulgee, which furnished the city’s water supply.

Had the gambling bill passed, the Donrey Stables would have been ready to race some of its horses in that state. Some Donrey horses did race at tracks in Hot Springs, Ark., New Orleans, Detroit, and Chicago, winning some here and there. Although he once owned some top horses, Reynolds seldom rode himself. In fact, he recalls that he rode horses more while living in New England than he ever did in Oklahoma.

The facilities at the Okmulgee training center were expanded to handle divisional meetings. Part of the 2,000 acres were leased to cattle growers; a fish and game preserve was across the road. In addition to the facilities necessary for the training programs conducted by the group, there is a small lake that Reynolds uses for occasional fishing.

Similar facilities are owned by the group at Lake Tahoe, where arrangements were made for regular divisional meetings of various officials within the organization. From time to time, Reynolds did some fishing at Lake Tahoe, but not often.

Reynolds’ business activities limited his time for enjoying any hobbies although he had one associated with his travels — collecting hotel room keys from around the world. These were on display at the Lake Tahoe center and served as a frequent reminder of the many places he had visited. Some hotel operators would give him a key after he explained his hobby, such as his key from Moscow which was acquired in this fashion. Others he had to buy. And on some occasions, such as his visits to Africa, he found the hotel owners unhappy at the loss of another key, hobby or no hobby.

As a legal resident of Las Vegas, Reynolds might have patronized the casinos often. He did not. He preferred the entertainment and the excitement of the city that had grown from about 12,000 when he first visited there to one of the nation’s major cities. In all that time, Reynolds estimated he had lost about a thousand dollars to Las Vegas’ chief industry. And much of this came as he showed his guests around the city and explained the gambling operations.

Reynolds owned a home there, purchased under the GI Bill of Rights after World War II. He also had his boyhood home in Oklahoma City disassembled and rebuilt on property in Las Vegas; however, he seldom stayed there, recalled Steve Anderson, president of the Foundation and the architect who supervised the relocation. When in the city, Reynolds stayed at the group 's western headquarters, a building at what was then, on the outer edge of the city. It housed offices and meeting rooms and provided accommodations for visiting Donrey personnel. It contained many of Reynolds’ mementoes from his travels.

Reynolds felt that the average individual has specific goals for his life and among these are the desire to educate his children, to obtain security for himself, to provide a suitable place for his family to live, and to build confidence in the organization for which he works.

To help achieve these objectives Reynolds established two foundations. He was proud of what he created with the Donrey Media Group and with the talented individuals he brought within its operation. He remembered those who helped him in the early days, such as Prof. Eugene Sharp, his first teacher of reporting at the Missouri School of Journalism. When the school established a scholarship in Sharp’s name upon his retirement in 1969, Reynolds Foundation made the largest contribution.

His assessment

When Reynolds reflected upon his half-century of association with journalism, he expressed satisfaction with his progress from a teenage street corner newspaper salesman in Oklahoma City to the sole owner of more than 100 companies, primarily newspapers, radio and television stations, CATV operations, outdoor advertising concerns in 21 states.

As to his major accomplishment in his fascinating career, Reynolds found it difficult to select any outstanding milestone, or turning point. “I have been fortunate in that I early selected a plan for my life and doubly fortunate in having been relatively successful in following that plan,” he said. His application for graduation from the Missouri School of Journalism listed ‘General Newspaper Work’ as a job objective.

“I am not certain that I have experienced the complete life, but if I had it to do over again I rather imagine that the end result would be about as it is today,” Reynolds added.

“My earliest success put me in the vicinity of more mature executives. As I approach my 69th birthday (Sept. 23, 1975), most of these early friends have passed on. The one thing that I am certain of· is that ultimately I will join them but my life is satisfying at the present and I hope that inevitable moment is delayed indefinitely.”

His daughter, Nancy, approached her father's life with a similar philosophy that she expressed to his biographer in 1975.

“My father is a more contented and spiritually self-sufficient person — if that doesn’t sound too grand — than many who sport the accepted ‘badges’ of happiness, particularly a close family life, which often turns out to be quite superficial upon serious examination. I think my father knows where he stands and doesn't kid himself about much.”


Professor William Howard Taft, Donald W. Reynold’s biographerThis text about the life, family and work of Donald W. Reynolds comes primarily from a 1975 biography of Reynolds and history of his Donrey Media Group by Professor William Howard Taft of the Missouri School of Journalism.

He joined the Missouri Journalism faculty in 1956. He died in 2011 at the age of 95. He published 12 books, many on the history of Missouri newspapers. Here is a link to the announcement of his death.


Related Stories

comments powered by Disqus
MU | Missouri School of Journalism | University of Missouri