BUTLER COUNTY'S EIGHTY YEARS BIOS

ROLLA A. CLYMER

(transcribed by Peggy Luce)

A great newspaper is one that represents and serves its community in a generous, high-minded way. That is a god working definition. The El Dorado Times is a great newspaper because in representing and serving El Dorado in a large, clean way it fulfills its manifest duty as a newspaper. What is doing in El Dorado and its environs is of primary importance to the people of El Dorado and its environs, and on such events the community expects to be informed by its most expressive public organ, the newspaper. Political and social scandal from Vienna, Perkin, London or Timbuctoo, will not help float a bond issue in a Kansas town, or carry through a fight against polluted water in a rural community in Montana. Both papers being representative public servants, The London Times is immeasurably a “greater” newspaper than The El Dorado Times only because London is an immeasurably larger community in a large, clean way it is no greater in purpose and performance than is The El Dorado Times. The difference is qualitative only. Let us know be awed out of all sense of moral proportion by mere physical bulk.

Rolla A. Clymer, editor The El Dorado Times, has many talents and capabilities, but his most valuable quality to himself and to his community, is his good sense. He has the good sense, that is, to run a paper for his own community rather than attempt to imitate the big city dailies, and produce a paper that gets nowhere and pleases nobody.

Taking, then, all else into consideration, the charm of his personality, his ability as a writer of excellent prose, his power to think straight, his humor, his sympathy and his understanding of people – these qualities are of less practical value than his realization of proportion in all things. This realization of proportion is one of the rarest qualities of human character, rarer than genius, rarer than talent. Mr. Clymer is wise enough to select home news for a home paper, seeing clearly that a newspaper ought to be the exponent of the community that supports it and depends upon it for coherence and leadership. In lieu of a better term, this wisdom is termed plain good sense.

For the rest, and by way of explanation of the cause of his professional success, his good sense and native talent were supplemented by a thorough education, and fine discipline in the gentle art of running an honest newspaper and getting away with it. After attending school in the various Kansas towns in which his father held pastorates, he was graduated from Quenermo High School, went to the College of Emporia where he took his A. B. degree, then did post-graduate work in the University of Kansas. In June, 1909, he considered himself “finished,” academically speaking, and he had the best job in the world at the time for a young newspaper aspirant. The job was reporter on William Allen White’s paper, The Emporia Gazette. While attending the College of Emporia he had worked on The Gazette, in summer vacation. But this time it was different. College days were over. Life was real, life was earnest; he was “a regular” on the Gazette.

He was with The Gazette, as reporter and city editor, for five years. The experience was invaluable. White made of him a first-class newspaper man, with practical ideals, and the working knowledge of how to materialize those ideals. In 1914, having resigned from The Gazette, he came to what not, in retrospect at least, was the Great Crossroads of his life. He had to make a momentous decision. He could go to Kansas City, as a reporter on the Star, or he could go to Olathe, as editor and manager of a weekly newspaper.

History does not record what influenced his decision, but he did not flip a coin. He was twenty-six, well educated, and already possessed a sense of his own personal power. The necessity of a decision must have cost him a sleepless night or two, trying to look into what Macbeth calls “the seeds of time,” and figure out the probable harvest. In the end he went to Olathe, no doubt casting one lingering, longing look towards Kansas City!

He stayed in Olathe, editor and manager of the Olathe Register, four years, closing his connection with that newspaper in April, 1918. When, in busy days, he has time to pause and contemplate, his tracks, it is said that Rolla Clymer often wonders what would have happened if, instead of going to Olathe, he had gone to Kansas City, and hooked up with the Star. Distance lends enchantment to the view, of course, and The Star is one of the excellent newspapers in this country, but one thing is quite unmistakable. Namely, if his going to Olathe, in 1914, was one of the steps in the process of coming to El Dorado than young Clymer’s decision to go to Olathe.

In April, 1918, he came to El Dorado, as editor and manager of The El Dorado daily Republican. William Allen White received his first newspaper experience on The Republican. What a thrill this fact must have given the new editor from Olathe, remembering the happy days of his apprenticeship on The Emporia Gazette! And, remembering, he must have dedicated his efforts anew to the ideals of his preceptor in newspaper work.

On December 1, 1919, the Walnut Valley Times and The Republican were merged. The consolidated paper was called The El Dorado Times. The late J.B. Adams was publisher of The Walnut Valley Times, and Mrs. Marie Antoinette Murdock owned The Republican. When the merger was effected, Mr. Clymer became co-owner, editor and co-manager of the paper. In 1923 he became sole editor and manager.

Mr. Clymer has been a resident of El Dorado sixteen years. He constantly has identified himself with the town’s best interests, loyal, generous, and intelligent in his service. Today he is one of El Dorado’s valued citizens. Even had he gone to Kansas City, that time he stood at the Great Crossroads, he could not be busier, or happier or more valuable in civic affairs. “The people of El Dorado,” said a recent writer, “value his business judgment, and they credit him with seeing and seizing upon many of the civic opportunities which have come in El Dorado’s way during the years. Without ostentation, Rolla Clymer has devoted his newspaper to the upbuilding of his community; not only by his strong, editorial leadership but by decent, courageous and interesting treatment of home-town news, great and small, about home folk, great and small.”

The El Dorado Rotary was organized in 1920. Mr. Clymer is a charter member, and served as its first president. In 1924 he was president of the Chamber of Commerce, and later a member of the directorate. That year, too, he was president of the Kansas State Editorial Association, and a few years later was president of the Kansas Editorial Golf Association. He is a Mason, with membership in Patmos, A. F. & A. M., El Dorado, the Consistory, Wichita; and El Dorado commandery, Knights Templar. He is enrolled in the Alpha XI chapter of the Sigma Chi, the University of Kansas. In politics he is a Republican; in religion, a Presbyterian.

A Republican and a Presbyterian by choice, a Kansan by birth. Born in Alton, Osborne county, Kansas, July 23, 1888. His father, George H. Clymer, a Presbyterian minister, was a native of Ohio. He moved from Ohio to Illinois, then, in 1887, from Illinois to Kansas. His mother, Ella (Light) Clymer, was the daughter of Felix Light, a prosperous Ohio farmer, descended from a long line of Pennsylvania ancestry. Both his parents were of English stock. On June 18, 1915, Mr. Clymer was married to Miss Elizabeth Hoisington, daughter of Colonel and Mrs. Perry M. Hoisington, of Newton. Colonel Hoisington was widely known by reason of his activity in the National Guard and in Masonic work. Mr. and Mrs. Clymer have two children, David and Catherine.

The El Dorado Times is one of the most influential newspapers in Kansas. The Clymer editorials and “Listening Post” paragraphs are widely quoted over the state, for they are frank and manly in tone, well thought out, and well written. Republican doctrine straight from the shoulder; a fair field and no favor. A noted Kansas editor, who chances to differ violently from Mr. Clymer’s political beliefs, is quoted as saying, “Though Rolla’s editorials are all wrong in principle, they’re always interesting.”

One of Rolla Cylmer’s finest characteristics is his spirit of fellowship, his willingness to listen to all who claim his attention and enlist his help and advice. He acts as if he had innumerable lives, so generous is he with his time. Go into his office on a matter of business important solely to yourself, and request his advice. He is as busy as a man can safely be, with unwritten editorials surging through his mind, appointments to be met, and plans for this, that and the other to be completed, but what does he? Excuse himself, and say he is too busy just now to see you? He does not. He turns from his desk as blithely as if there were forty-eight hours in a day, and, listening to your talk, gives you his undivided and sympathetic attention. It is this willingness to be of service that gives Rolla Clymer his unique position in El Dorado, his unique hold upon the affection and confidence of the people of his community.

So here he is today, forty-six years old, leader in his town and in his profession. A versatile citizen; sings in the choir of the First Presbyterian church; is a delightful public speaker, and, what is rare in a public speaker, a remarkably fine listener. “Rolla is younger than most men of his age,” said C. E. Rogers, of the Kansas State College journalism department, recently, discussing the “Personalities of the Kansas Press.” “His coal-black hair, warm dark eyes, graceful figure, and intense personality are the embodiment of the same kind of bubbling enthusiasm that made Nelson and White great editors and great masters of editors to be. He carries the torch, and rekindles it.”

           

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