An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

’30’ for ‘Mr. Hilburn’

Bob Hilburn, known to two decades of Daily Texan staffers as an advocate, colleague and mentor, died Saturday, May 17 in Wichita Falls.

Following a long, distinguished newspaper career – including coverage of the Kennedy assassination where he rode in the press bus that fateful day – he became Editorial Manager of The Daily Texan, serving from 1965 until 1985.

He was a guiding light for Texan journalists, and a true example of the possibilities of the future for impressionable Texan staffers and students.

Out of respect by staffers, he was always called, “Mr. Hilburn.” And he always offered respect and guidance back to students, rarely – if ever –  using the “no” word, never chastising510584_0_510584_253502_20140525-2, but imparting wisdom and advice, and urging students to think about journalistic questions and sound and solid journalism as they published the paper nightly.

He had a dry, lively wit. He drove a wonderful British sports car. And he swam at Barton Springs at the break of the day every day of the year, even on the coldest days.

Griff Singer, retired journalism professor and also a mentor to decades of Texan staffers, recalls:

“I’ll never forget our first meeting — 1959 at the Tarrant County Criminal Courts Building where I was called as a witness in a double homicide case in Arlington. Bob stood out from other reporters for sure. His uniform was a dark suit tie and trademark Homburg hat. You learned quickly who set the standard in Cowtown.”

Mark Morrison, a former Editor and Managing Editor of The Texan, recalls the support and counsel Hilburn offered, and the heat he took on behalf of the student newspaper and staff.

“Bob Hilburn was under intense pressure during the Erwin years when Texan editors were blasting the chairman daily and calling for his resignation from the Board of Regents.   While I was there he did not urge us to pull any punches at any time on this or any other issue.,” Morrison said. ” He did, however, save us from embarrassing mistakes and help us attain a remarkable level of professionalism in covering the Erwin and Vietnam eras. Bob was a tremendous teacher in his usually quiet, unassuming way.”

For Texan staffers, he added an element of journalistic integrity and quality that enhanced their formal education, bringing them into the world of journalism with a guiding hand.

— John Reetz

Bob Hilburn, left, Editorial Manager of The Texan, 1971
Bob Hilburn, left, Editorial Manager of The Texan, 1971

Below is an obituary published in The Austin American-Statesman:

Robert (Bob) Edwin Hilburn, devoted husband, loving father and doting grandfather, died surrounded by family early on Saturday, May 17th, 2014.A native of Wichita Falls, he was the only child of R. E. Hilburn, M.D., and Mae McMurtry Hilburn. He graduated from Wichita Falls High School in 1940 as president of his senior class, and pursuing an accelerated wartime course of study, he received a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri in 1943.Bob’s first newspaper job was as a cub reporter for the Wichita Falls Daily Times in 1942. In Missouri, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was assigned as the youngest combat correspondent after training at Parris Island, Camp Lejeune, Quantico, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Joining the Eighth Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division, on Saipan, Marinanas Islands, he served during the pacification of Saipan, Tinia, the invasion of Okinawa, Ryukas Islands and the occupation of Japan. On Okinawa, he was the only newsman present when Army General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Corps commander of the invasion forces, was killed by an enemy artillery round at a forward command post of the Eighth Marines. In Japan, he went ashore at Nagasaki, only a few days after the atomic bomb leveled the city.After several months in Japan, he was reassigned to the public information office of the Department of the Pacific in San Francisco as the N.C.O. in-charge and served in that capacity until receiving an honorable discharge on August 28, 1946, with a rating of Technical Sergeant. In 1948, Bob married Frances Elizabeth Chapman in San Francisco. Bob moved back to Fort Worth, Texas where he began his newspaper career at the Fort Worth Star Telegram progressing from police and court coverage to investigative work that helped lead to the end of gambling and the ouster of several public officials in Tarrant County. They had a son, Robert Bruce in 1952. Betty later died from multiple sclerosis.

On December 31, 1961, Bob married Mary Jeanette Betts in Fort Worth. In 1962, he was given leave of absence to serve as press secretary for John Connolly, governor candidate in the Democratic primary. Politics, local, state and national continued to demand his attention, and he covered a handful of legislative sessions and several presidential conventions. In 1963, the Fort Worth Star Telegram sent him to Washington to bolster its national reporting, and Bob soon found himself head of a bureau operating a consortium of five Texas newspapers under the tutelage of Bascom Timmons, a giant of Texas journalism.

Bob was in the White House press bus in the presidential cavalcade when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and wrote the lead story with its electrifying details and starkness of truth. Bob then directed extensive coverage of the 1964 presidential campaign that put LBJ in the White House. In 1965, he left the pressures of the bureau and returned to Texas to become Editorial Manager of the The Daily Texan at U.T., where he served until retiring in 1985.

His family would like to give special thanks to Dr. Stephen Hardeman and Dolores Chacon, his caregiver. He is survived by his wife, Jeanette Hilburn, two sons, Robert Bruce Hilburn and James Betts Hilburn, two daughters, Mary Kathryn Hilburn and Sidney Mae Hilburn; and one much beloved grandson “Danny” Finnegan Palmer, all who reside in Austin.

Known for a twinkle in his eye, his disarming dry wit, his love of gardening, he had a colorful perspective on life. Bob was patient, kind, gentle, creative, and very sharp. Animals were uncommonly drawn to him and at times seemed like an animal “whisperer”. He was a gifted storyteller, a marine to the very end, and a true gentleman who will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

There will be a private graveside service in Wichita Falls. A memorial service will be held at a later date in Austin.

Donations may be directed to Therapy PetPals of Texas, 3930 Bee Caves Road, Suite C, Austin, Texas 78746.

Obituary and guestbook available online at