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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. 

JACK BICKHAM AND JACK DYER
How to Submit a Nomination

Selection Process

Honorees are selected by a committee comprised of hall of fame members, including its director, and distinguished leaders in journalism. The Selection Committee considers all nominations, both new ones and those held over from previous years, before selecting the honorees.

The 2022 Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame nominee submission deadline is Sunday, Ocober 31, 2021.

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