Weatherford Democrat

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November 28, 2011

Former Democrat owner remembered

— The man responsible for making the Weatherford Democrat the first newspaper in the state to move over to modern day printing techniques and transforming the former weekly into a daily news source died Nov. 19. Wren Harold Hart, one of the Hart brothers who owned the Weatherford Democrat in the 1950s and 60s, grew up in the newspaper business but had other plans for his life when he went to Texas A&M for a chemical engineering degree, his daughter, Melissa Patterson, said.

Born in 1922 in Cooper, Hart graduated from Texas A&M and completed ROTC training before joining the military and serving overseas in England and France.  

Hart was the only one of the three brothers who hadn’t majored in journalism. But after his brother Wilbur was killed during the war, Hart returned home in 1946 and became became co-owner and publisher of The Cooper Review and The Delta Courier until 1952.

During that time, Hart married Janelle Witcher, of Honey Grove, and formed a Texas National Guard unit in Cooper.

She was a young girl and her sister was not yet born when her father and her uncle, Lyndol Hart, moved from Cooper, a much smaller town than Weatherford, and purchased the Weatherford Democrat in 1952, Patterson said.

The Democrat was a weekly newspaper at the time in a much smaller community than it is today.

The news was very locally oriented and her father, as co-owner, publisher and business manager, focused on serving the small town’s businesses, Patterson said.

“Everybody knew everybody,” Patterson said.

But the Hart brothers had big plans for the small town weekly.

“He was a hard worker, never knew a stranger, was an honest man,” Patterson said.

He worked long hours during his time running the Democrat, according to Patterson.

After working on the press, her father would sometimes come in with ink on his feet.

With no circulation department, those who had a missed delivery called the family and Hart would drive the paper to their home and knock on the door, Patterson said.

Hart often missed the family vacations during the 15 years he and his brother built up Weatherford’s newpaper, his daughter said.

Under the management of Hart and his brother several big changes for the Democrat took place.

In 1959, the Democrat added Associated Press wire and began publishing as a daily newspaper.

In 1962, the brothers bought out their competitor, The Daily Herald, and threw out that paper’s old equipment.

The Weatherford Democrat became the only newspaper in Parker County for the first time since around the turn of the century.

On Oct. 29, 1962, the Democrat became the first newspaper in Texas and one of the first in the nation to convert to offset printing, the modern newspaper printing process.

At the same time, the newspaper was moved from the building on 114 North Main St. to 110 Fort Worth St.

The major technology change from hot metal typesetting wasn’t an easy one, according to his daughter.

Though her father had many traditional values, such as honesty,  Patterson said her father was always very innovative when it came to business and wasn’t old-fashioned when it came to delivering a good newspaper.

In 1967, Hart and his brother sold the newspaper to the Donrey Media Group.

The brothers were the last family owners of the Weatherford Democrat. Her father disliked some of the changes made under the new owners that moved the news from a local perspective, Patterson said.

Hart, always sharp when it came to math, went on to successes in the insurance business and founding his own financial investment business, which he ran until he retired in 1996, according to his daughter.

Hart, a member of many civic and community organizations such as the Weatherford Housing Authority and the Water and Electric Board, continued to be active in the Weatherford community, as well as in his church, Grace First Presbyterian Church.

A memorial service for Hart will be held Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. at Grace First Presbyterian Church at 608 Mockingbird Lane.

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