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African-American Oral Histories

Tommy Wyatt
Clip 4: Transcript

Starting The Villager

Running Time: 4 min 57 sec

TW: When I first came to Austin there was a paper here that was, that I learned a lot about the city by reading that paper. It was the Capitol City Argus. It’s still here. But what had happened with the Capitol City Argus was that the editor of that paper died suddenly. So the paper had kind of gone, you know, down a lot and it was not being effective and wasn’t providing the kind of service the community needed. So there was a lot of talk about we needed another paper. So myself and a couple friends of mine went over to the Capitol City Argus, it was still operating but it was under new management, went over to the Capitol City Argus and offered our services, you know, to help them generate, you know, readership back and provide information and write stories or whatever we needed to do in order to keep the paper functioning and active in the community. The gentleman who was running it at the time was not interested in our services. So then we offered to buy the paper from him and operate it and he was not interested in selling it. So the only other thing to do then was somebody start their own paper. And after talking to several people who said they wanted to, I mean it just kept, it wasn’t working, you know, so I started to do it myself. The first paper we put out was on a manual typewriter [laughs] that I borrowed. And I borrowed it from the, from the insurance office where I worked the first time, because he had a lot of typewriters up in the building. They had moved, they had a lot of old manual typewriters they weren’t using anymore and they put them upstairs in the attic, for the most part. And so I didn’t have a typewriter at the time, and so when I got ready to start my paper I asked the manager over there if I could borrow one of those typewriters. He let me have it. And I started the paper off with a manual typewriter.

I started off, I had a, the person who was the managing editor of my paper was a lady by the name of Lisa—anyway I can come back to that later. But she was a graduate of the University of Texas and she had, her father Dean Riddick, Dean Riddick was the Dean of Journalism at U.T. And so she came in as my managing editor to show me how to get the, help me get the paper off the ground and she ran it and so forth and so on. So at the time I was just the, I was just the money behind the paper, you know really, paying the bills and so forth to get it out, and she did all the technical work on it. She stayed with me for a while and then she ‘course, moved on and I had to take over, so I became editor and publisher. Later on I brought in another managing editor, but for the most part I kept my hand in as the editor and publisher because the only thing permanent about the paper is me.

My column’s called Rappin’, it still is. It came back from the old days, when people, it’s not the same rappin’ we have today. It’s not the same--rappin’ was people talkin’, back in the 60s and they called it rappin’. And so my column was created around that and we’ve been running it ever since each week. And that column there, the idea for that column came behind a column they had in the Austin American Statesman. The Statesman, at that time, put out two papers a day. The morning paper was called the Austin American, and the afternoon paper was called The Statesman. They later combined into one paper called the Austin American Statesman. But they had two papers, you know. In the Statesman, in the afternoon paper, they had a guy wrote a column that was called Ray Waddell, his name was Ray Waddell, and his column was called Ray Waddell. Basically what he did was just talked about things that were going on in the city, you know, anything and everything. I mean he just, his column, he could put in there what he wanted to. And he had one of the most popular columns that the Statesman had in the paper, and everybody said, “If you want to get the information out in Austin, make sure you get Ray Waddell,” talking about his column. And so [when] we started our paper, we started that column, because it was to be an answer to what Ray Waddell was doing there, do it here. If anybody felt that they really wanted something out and something to be read in this paper, get it in my column. And so we’ve been doing Rappin’ ever since.

“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”

Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.

Tommy Wyatt

Tommy Wyatt

Amy Steiger

Date of Interview:
April 15, 2004

The Villager office, 1223-A Rosewood Ave., Austin, Texas

Recording Format:
Analog tape

Amy Steiger