from small moments to a legacy
By Sue Hale, 2005 Inductee
As city editor of The Oklahoman, I was at my desk, editing frantically to make deadline. It was a winter’s night in 1986. Suddenly I realized someone was standing next to me.
Edith Gaylord had been attending a concert downtown. “That series you wrote about your mother in the nursing home was really well-done,” she said. I was stunned that she would stop by the newsroom to tell me. I stuttered a “Thank you, Edith.” She responded, “No need to thank me, it’s the truth.” With that, she left.
Small moments with Edith left a lasting impression on me. Receiving praise from this woman who had the highest standards of journalistic integrity made me determined to always live up to those standards.
Edith was born in Oklahoma City on March 5, 1916 to Inez and Edward King Gaylord. Her father was editor and publisher of The Daily Oklahoman and Oklahoma City Times. She once said, “I was born into the newspaper business. I will die a newsperson no matter what I’m doing.”
Edith earned a college degree with an emphasis in English, French, and Social Studies, and honed her journalism skills by working for her father’s newspapers. Similarly, I have a degree in English and developed as a journalist by working for small newspapers. We talked about our shared pathway into the industry and agreed it was a great way to “learn the business.”
After the start of World War II, Edith was hired by The Associated Press in New York. In 1942, she was transferred to the AP bureau in Washington, D.C. where she was the only woman on the general news staff. She covered Madame Chiang Kai-shek, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, President Franklin Roosevelt, President Harry Truman, and the new first lady, Bess Truman. Edith was also elected president of the Women’s National Press Club.
After she returned to Oklahoma City in the 1960s, she supported community projects with her time and money. She set up two foundations: the Inasmuch Foundation, to improve the quality of life for Oklahomans through education, health and human services, and community enhancement; and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, to improve the quality and ethical standards of journalism.
Edith encouraged me to get involved in the community. I followed her advice through service on several community boards. She didn’t care much for “ivory tower” journalism where editors had no personal experience with the services offered by non-profit organizations.
My friendship with Edith didn’t stop her from making calls about serious typos, poor grammar, and stories she said confused the reader. I did my best to make sure we never made the same mistake twice.
True to her word that she would die a newsperson, two months before her death, she called me. She wanted me to send her obituary material so she could fact-check it. She was housebound. I used a courier to send her everything we had, including photos.
A few days later, Edith called with corrections.
“I was not the first woman president of the Women’s National Press Club,” she said. In fact, Edith was the twenty-fifth, having been elected in 1944. After correcting a few other mistakes, she mentioned a photo that was taken with her and Mrs. Roosevelt. She had put an orchard on top of her hair to make her look taller, because Mrs. Roosevelt was quite tall. “And Sue, if you use that picture, take that stupid flower off my head,” she said.
I followed all her instructions for her obituary. After her passing, the Gaylord family gave me a framed copy of the original picture with the “stupid flower.” It is still one of my prized possessions.
Sue Hale now serves as consultant for the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. More stories about Edith Kinney Gaylord can be found on the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame website.