JACK BICKHAM AND JACK DYER

the two hall-of-fame Jacks who helped launch my career 

By Ralph Schaefer, 2017 Inductee

Two Jacks—Jack Bickham and Jack Dyer—helped start a nearly 50- year newspaper career. They were newspaper editors in the late 1960s, and they had a lifelong impact on a Central State College journalism student. 

I was a junior in 1968 and studying under Dr. Ray Tassin and Stan Hoig, later Dr. Hoig. I had the opportunity to work part-time at The Oklahoma Courier, the Catholic diocese newspaper. Jack Bickham was the editor, and I rewrote items sent to the newspaper for publication. 

My “big” assignment came when I was sent to Purcell to write a story about a woman who graduated many years earlier from the now closed Catholic school. Everyone liked the story and wanted more, but the newspaper budget was tight. I completed my agreed-upon two-month time all too quickly. 

Bickham called me into his office, reviewed my work and was mostly complimentary. 

But he closed his comment to a green reporter with, “Ralph, your copy is too wooden.” 

That comment sticks with me today. 

Fast forward to October 1969. 

I met Jack Dyer at the Oklahoma Press Association office to apply for a reporter-photographer job at the El Reno Daily Tribune. 

Dyer looked over my application and work at The Oklahoma Courier. He hesitated to hire me because I had worked with Jack Bickham. I don’t remember the reason for his concern, but I was hired and went to work the next day. 

That first day I was given the newspaper’s new camera—a Mamiya C330—and in the afternoon was told that U.S. Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma was driving a combine in a nearby wheat field. I was to take the picture.  

I was wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and necktie, the dress standard of the day.  

Jack Dyer drove me to the field. I carefully crawled between two strands of barbed wire on a fence and ran to take the photo. When I returned to the car, Dyer was waiting. 

He said my effort “scared him.” 

“Why?” I asked. “Were you afraid I would get hurt?” 

“No,” was the reply. “I was afraid you would break the new camera.” 

I wore that camera out before leaving the newspaper in 1973.  

I retired from the newspaper business in 2018.