James R. Yoder, a 70-year member of SPJ, died Nov. 25, 2012, from complications of a hip fracture. He was 90.
Yoder grew up in the newspaper business. His father, Robert Yoder, bought the Weimar Mercury in 1913, and the paper remained in the family until the 1990s.
“He was a one-man show,” said his son, Ken Yoder. “He wrote all the stories, took all the pictures. I would go out with him to the wrecks on the highway and all the farm accidents.” Ken Yoder said he was probably about 8 years old the first time his dad took him on a story.
Robert Yoder, originally from Missouri, was visiting Texas when he saw an ad — the Weimar Mercury needed a printer. Yoder bought the paper four years after he started as the Mercury’s foreman, when its owner no longer wanted it.
James Yoder worked at his father’s newspaper from the time he was a little kid until he went to the University of Texas, where he worked his way through to study journalism. He joined SPJ (then Sigma Delta Chi) and served as an editor of The Daily Texan.
Yoder served in the Marines in World War II, and upon his return his dream was to work at a big newspaper, Ken Yoder said. But Robert Yoder talked his son into coming back to work for him in Weimar, and James Yoder took over as editor and publisher in 1962. At the time James Yoder sold the Mercury, the weekly had a circulation of about 3,500.
Long after he retired from journalism, Yoder continued to read Quill, Ken Yoder said.
“I just remember all the time when it would come he would just read the thing cover to cover and enjoyed every part of it,” he said.
Neither Ken Yoder nor his sister Karen went into journalism, but he reflected fondly on the family history.
“(My father) was always such a stickler for everything being extremely accurate. My grandfather was like that,” Yoder said.
“And the Society of Professional Journalists — even the last couple years he was still wearing his cap,” Ken Yoder said. “He fell in love with the whole going to meetings and the group of journalists.”