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Larry Charles Wingert

Larry Charles Wingert

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Texas journalist and former Monitor publisher Larry Charles Wingert (1937-2021), who believed in newspapers “as a force for good”, honored by the Texas House of Representatives

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

Larry Charles Wingert, 83, a journalist and former publisher of the Monitor newspaper in McAllen who passed away on Saturday, January 16, 2021, has been honored by the Texas House of Representatives for his professional civic, and personal contributions to the state.

The public and statewide recognition is the result of legislation authored by Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

A bill is type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers of the legislature and action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state. “Bill” types include Senate and House bills, Senate and House Joint Resolutions, Senate and House concurrent resolutions, and Senate and House resolutions.

https://tlc.texas.gov/docs/legref/Glossary.pdf

House Resolution 62 by Canales and House Resolution 187 by Guerra, which are identical in language,  praised Wingert for his proven dedication to the highest professional standards of journalism and community service.

The resolutions by Canales and Guerra were adopted by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, and Thursday, March 18, 2021, respectively.

Adoption is the approval or acceptance of a measure, usually applied to amendments or resolutions.

A resolution is a formal expression of recognition, opinion, or decision, other than a proposed law, that may be offered for approval to one or both chambers (House of Representatives or the Senate) of the Texas Legislature by a member of the House or Senate.

“Mr. Wingert believed in the value of print news not only as a vital source of information, but also as a force for good in the community, and he was known to donate ad space to charities and to utilize the paper in other ways to promote harmony and unity among neighbors,” Canales stated in House Resolution 62. 

The honor bestowed on the late longtime journalist and publisher also came as The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas was participating in Sunshine Week in March when groups across the nation celebrate the public’s right to know.

“Mr. Wingert worked in the Rio Grande Valley for more than four decades and served as publisher of McAllen’s the Monitor from 1977 to 1994; he was beloved by his employees, whom he always treated with the utmost respect and appreciation, and his calm, friendly management style helped the staff navigate the many changes that occurred at the paper during his 17-year tenure; under his leadership, the publication enjoyed one of the most successful eras of its history,” Guerra noted in House Resolution 187.

House Resolution 62 and House Resolution 187, which have identical language, follow:

WHEREAS, The passing of Larry Charles Wingert, former publisher of The Monitor newspaper of McAllen, on January 16, 2021, at the age of 83, has brought a profound loss to his loved ones and to the community that he generously served; and

WHEREAS, born in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1937, Larry Wingert was the son of Tom and Thelma Wingert and grew up with a brother, Darryl; he moved with his family to McAllen in his youth, and after graduating from McAllen High School, he attended Pan American College and Sul Ross State University; he first began his career in the newspaper industry as a paperboy in 1953, and as he learned the business over the years, he found employment with the Monitor, the Valley Morning Star, and the Brownsville Herald, as well as with publications in Pampa and Odessa and cities in Ohio and New Mexico; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Wingert worked in the Rio Grande Valley for more than four decades and served as publisher of McAllen’s the Monitor from 1977 to 1994; he was beloved by his employees, whom he always treated with the utmost respect and appreciation, and his calm, friendly management style helped the staff navigate the many changes that occurred at the paper during his 17-year tenure; under his leadership, the publication enjoyed one of the most successful eras of its history; Mr. Wingert believed in the value of print news not only as a vital source of information, but also as a force for good in the community, and he was known to donate ad space to charities and to utilize the paper in other ways to promote harmony and unity among neighbors; and

WHEREAS, A dedicated volunteer and a supporter of numerous local organizations and causes, Mr. Wingert was involved with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, the Jaycees, the Elks, Easter Seals, the Rotary Club, and both the Boy and Girl Scouts; moreover, he was a devout Catholic who attended mass daily, and he also found time to visit hospice patients and to deliver meals to homebound seniors; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Wingert shared nearly 65 years of marriage with the love of his life, the former Margaret Alice Johnson; he was the devoted father of three children, Stephan, Ashley, and Stephanie, and he was proud to see his son follow in his footsteps to become the Monitor‘s current publisher; his cherished family further included three grandchildren, Kathryn, Jackson, and Amber; and

WHEREAS Larry Wingert will be remembered with great admiration for his professional achievements and for the myriad ways he gave of himself to benefit others, and he will be deeply missed by all who were privileged to know him; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 87th Texas Legislature hereby pay tribute to the life of Larry Charles Wingert and extend sincere sympathy to his relatives and friends; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution, be prepared for his family and that when the Texas House of Representatives adjourns this day, it do so in memory of Larry CharlesWingert.

Larry Charles Wingert

Larry Charles Wingert, 83, was born in Waterloo, Iowa in 1937.

His family moved to McAllen, Texas when he was a child and the Wingert family promptly made the Rio Grande Valley their home. His father Tom served in the Border Patrol and as a chief deputy sheriff for Hidalgo County. His mother, Thelma, operated a small daycare in town. Larry attended McAllen High School, Pan American College, and Sul Ross University.

Larry met the love of his life, Margaret Alice Johnson, at Crystal Waters Swimming Pool in Mission, Texas in the spring of 1956. Margaret shares they both just knew by the third date. The two married on August 23 in Reynosa, Mexico, and reconfirmed their commitment to each other in a ceremony at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in McAllen later that same year.

“From the day we met Larry was always by my side,” Margaret recalls. She was by his side when Larry was called home Saturday, January 16. During their 64 years together they created a loving home and raised a family. Margaret supported Larry through his over a 40-year career in the newspaper business.

Larry’s passion for newspapers was life-long. He began his career with Freedom Communications in 1953 with a paper route and retired in 1995 as a publisher. He learned the business from the ground up and accepted each challenge and advancement opportunity with determination, commitment, and grace.

He worked at the McAllen MonitorValley Morning Star, and Brownsville Herald, in addition to newspapers in Pampa and Odessa, Texas, Lima, Ohio, and Clovis, New Mexico. Larry was appointed publisher of the Monitor in 1977 and maintained the position for 17 years.

Throughout his tenure as publisher Larry gave back to his community in immeasurable ways. He was known to readily contribute time and treasure to community and non-profit organizations. He served on a multitude of boards on local and national levels. He was involved with the Elks, Jaycees, Easter Seals, McAllen Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Boys & Girls Club, and Tip of Texas Girl Scout Council, to name a few. He was also Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 7 in McAllen. 

Larry was a devout Catholic and attended daily mass for years after retirement. He continued to give his time and attention by visiting hospice patients, delivering meals to shut-ins and the elderly and volunteering at his young daughter’s school cleaning cafeteria tables.

His youngest daughter, Ashley (Kel) Gibson, is a teacher in Weimar, Texas. Her daughter, Kathryn, shares Larry’s birthday. His son, Stephan (Eryn) Wingert, followed his father into the newspaper business and is the current publisher of The Monitor in McAllen. Larry’s grandson, Jackson Wingert (College Station), graduated from McAllen High School like his grandfather. 

Larry is also survived by his daughter Stephanie Lyons of San Antonio, and granddaughter Amber Lyons of Cuero, Texas. He is preceded in death by his parents, and brother Darryl Wingert. 

In death as in life, Larry is giving back by donating his remains to Texas Tech University. Larry conveyed, in his signature humor, “This is the only way I could get into Tech!” The Wingert family will further honor his wishes by visiting Big Bend National Park in his memory. Margaret and the Wingert family have been incredibly comforted by the messages of condolence and stories people have shared, and hope Larry’s life inspires others to “do a good turn daily.”

TEXAS SENATE COMMITTEE ON STATE AFFAIRS, WHOSE MEMBERSHIP INCLUDES SEN. LUCIO AND SEN. ZAFFIRINI, CONSIDERS FIRST AMENDMENT ISSUES

The Senate Committee on State Affairs Committee recently heard legislation related to freedom of speech during its first meeting of the 87th Texas Legislature on Monday, March 8, 2021.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, whose Senate District 21 includes Starr County, both serve on the nine-member Senate Committee on State Affairs.

The Senate Committee on State Affairs often considers important issues with a national profile and hears legislation dealing with questions of constitutional rights. 

The bill, which were first considered on Monday, March 8, 2021, looks at what kinds of content social media companies can ban from their platforms. 

Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, is the author of Senate Bill 12, a measure he said is intended to protect political speech online. 

The author is the legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process (also called the primary author). The Senate allows multiple primary authors for each bill or resolution. The House of Representatives allows only one primary author, the House member whose signature appears on the original measure and on the copies filed with the chief clerk. Both chambers also have coauthors, and the house of representatives has joint authors.

He believes that major social media companies, like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, violate free speech rights by sanctioning users who post certain political viewpoints – at times permanently banning users from the platform. 

“The concern is about free expression of ideas, and having a debate, having an exchange,” he said. “We want to make sure that viewpoints aren’t discriminated against, whether they be conservative, liberal or in-between.” 

Hughes’ Senate Bill 12 would permit users in Texas who believe they have been banned from a platform for posting political views to seek a court order for reinstatement. It also provides for a plaintiff to recover attorney fees should they prevail and gives judges the power to hold companies that refuse injunctions against bans in contempt of court.

Hughes argued that because just a handful of media companies have come to dominate the market, controlling almost the entire social media space, they constitute a de facto “town square” and that First Amendment protections on political speech should apply. 

Federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled that private companies are under no constitutional obligation to host content, but Hughes told members that the bill “threads the needle” on federal law regulating speech issues because it doesn’t assess a statutory penalty for content moderation. 

“It just enforces a prohibition on viewpoint-based speech censorship,” he said. Hughes added that federal law already allows states to regulate websites provided those regulations are consistent.

A few days before the Senate committee hearing on Senate Bill 12, Gov. Gregg Abbott held a press conference supporting Hughes’ legislation.

“Social media sites have become our modern-day public squares where information should be able to flow freely, but social media companies are now acting as judge and jury on determining what viewpoints are valid,” said Abbott. “America was built on freedom of speech and healthy public debate, and efforts to silence conservative viewpoints on social media are wrong and weaken public discourse. I thank Sen. Hughes for offering Senate Bill 12 to help protect Texans from being wrongfully censored on social media for voicing their political or religious viewpoints. 

Senate Bill 12 also is part of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s, R-Houston, 30-bill priority legislation package.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website’s Audio/Video Archive.

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Texas Senate News contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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