Local Obituaries

August 13, 2014

Obituary: Luther Adkins, longtime Star-Telegram executive

Luther Adkins started in 1951 at Amon Carter Sr.’s WBAP-TV and during the next 41 years, became the face of the Star-Telegram to the community.

Luther Adkins never put himself first and never sought praise.

Whether raising millions of dollars for clothes and shoes for Tarrant County children, or seeking additional benefits for Star-Telegram retirees, “he was interested in people and their well-being,” his wife, Kitty Adkins, said Wednesday.

“He never lost his love for the community.”

Mr. Adkins, a longtime Star-Telegram executive, died Wednesday of cancer. He was 87.

Mr. Adkins was the face of the newspaper on the boards of dozens of organizations over the years, from the United Way to the Arts Council of Fort Worth & Tarrant County and the paper’s Goodfellow Fund Christmas charity.

Retired Star-Telegram Publisher Wes Turner said Mr. Adkins embodied the newspaper and was an ambassador to the community.

“There’s no one around who knows more about [the Star-Telegram], cared more about it, and was known by virtually every employee over the last 60 years,” Turner said.

“And Luther made a great impact on the city because of all his civic involvement.”

Before rising in the corporate ranks, Mr. Adkins was on board early at the television station started by Amon G. Carter Sr. He was working as a disc jockey at an AM station in Fort Worth when he moved to WBAP/AM-FM-TV in 1951 and got a job at Carter’s fledgling TV station, now owned by NBC as KXAS/Channel 5. He hosted a religion talk show, Christian Questions, among other roles.

A Baptist deacon, Mr. Adkins was remembered as a gentle person, with a huge heart and even greater sense of humor.

Texas roots

Luther Pryor Adkins was born Sept. 27, 1926, in Hyman, in West Texas, the only child of Julia E. and Lee P. Adkins. Because of terrible allergies, he moved to Fort Worth as a young teen to live an aunt and uncle, his wife said.

He graduated as salutatorian from Paschal High School in 1942 and enlisted in the Navy. Rather than active duty, Mr. Adkins was sent to Stanford University in California, where he earned a degree in business.

After his discharge from the service, Mr. Adkins returned to Fort Worth and graduated from TCU in 1949 with a degree in communications. In 1948, Mr. Adkins founded KTCU/88.7 FM, the student radio station.

He and his wife, a graduate of Hardin Simmons College in Abilene, were attending Sagamore Baptist Church in Fort Worth and were introduced to each other by the pastor, Mrs. Adkins said. On Wednesday, they would have celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary.

“I think that’s wonderful we had that many years together,” she said.

Years on West Seventh

During the 1950s at WBAP-TV, he was promoted to administrative manager and personnel chief. In 1965, he became corporate personnel director for WBAP and the Star-Telegram.

Four years later, he was promoted to director of industrial relations at WBAP and the Star-Telegram. In 1976, Mr. Adkins was promoted to vice president and assistant general manager under the newspaper’s new owner, Capital Cities Communications, and in 1980, he was made senior vice president of administration at the newspaper, a position he held until he retired in 1992 after 41 years.

He continued to serve as liaison to the Amon G. Carter Star-Telegram Employees Fund for several years. The fund is an endowment set up by Carter and his wife to help employees in need.

Nenetta Carter Tatum, president of the employees fund and granddaughter of the legendary businessman and publisher, said Mr. Adkins was the eyes and ears for all the retirees.

He never shied away from asking for more benefits to help employees, from paying for eyeglasses to walkers and hearing aids, she said.

“We finally ran out of stuff to add,” Tatum said. “He truly watched out for every single one of them.”

Mr. Adkins selected Richard Greene, who retired from the Star-Telegram as director of advertising operations, to replace him as liaison.

Greene said people trusted Mr. Adkins. “He had an easiness about him,” he said.

Web of connections

Mr. Adkins was an avid collector of Star-Telegram and WBAP memorabilia and had been working with Joy Webster, vice president at Morning Star Capital, on a museum planned for the former Star-Telegram building at West Seventh and Taylor streets downtown.

Morning Star, headed by former XTO Energy founder Bob Simpson, bought the building a few years ago and has been remodeling it.

“Working with Luther was one of the absolute pleasures of my life,” Webster said. “I just don’t know a finer, sweeter gentleman. Fort Worth is going to miss him.”

Mr. Adkins served as many as 38 civic organizations at the same time, from the United Way to the Arts Council, from the Mayor's Committee on Infant Mortality to the Fort Worth Beautiful Committee.

The Goodfellow Fund, the Star-Telegram’s Christmas charity, administered by Adkins for more than a decade, raised more than $3 million and provided clothes and shoes to 70,000 needy Tarrant County children during his tenure.

Tim McKinney, president and CEO of the United Way of Tarrant County, who worked with Mr. Adkins through the United Way when he was serving as a Bank of America president in Fort Worth, said Mr. Adkins was always looking out for the best for the city.

“I would seek his advice,” McKinney said, when he was dealing with bank-related issues. “He was always willing to share his opinion.”

Mr. Adkins also taught communication courses at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

Ron Harris, founder and president of MEDIAlliance International in Arlington, which trains and mentors Christian broadcasters worldwide, said Mr. Adkins, a family friend, served as a mentor to him.

“He set such a pattern in broadcasting and Christian media and that’s the path I followed,” Harris said. “He was a phenomenal inspiration to me in so many ways. He was a man of great integrity and gracious spirit.”

Other survivors include daughters Andrea Hoffman and Cami McCraw, and three grandchildren.

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