Wiley Hilburn

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Wiley Wilson Hilburn, Jr.​

(Professor of journalism
at Louisiana Tech University;
Author of New Seasons,
Fragments, and Reflections of North Louisiana)

Wiley Hilburn.jpeg

Born February 20, 1938​
Ruston, Lincoln Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died January 16, 2014 (aged 75)​
Northern Louisiana Medical Center in Ruston​
Political Party Democrat
Spouse (1) Ellen Riser Hilburn (divorced, since Ellen R. LaCroix​)

(2) Kate Sartor Hilburn (surviving widow)​
From first marriage:
Gregory Todd Hilburn
​ Kevin Scott Hilburn
​ Anne Marie Hilburn
​ Step-daughter:
​ Jenny O'Driscoll
​ Five grandchildren​
C. E. "Cap" Barham (uncle by marriage)
​ Charles Clem Barham (cousin)​

Religion Presbyterian

Wiley Wilson Hilburn, Jr. (February 20, 1938 – January 16, 2014), was a journalist in his native Ruston, Louisiana, whose communications career began in the middle 1950s when he was a student at Ruston High School and then Louisiana Tech University. In 1968, at the age of thirty, Hilburn returned to Louisiana Tech to chair the Journalism Department and serve as director of the college news bureau.

Even while instructing budding journalists for some four decades, he continued to write a popular weekly column carried by Gannett in both The Shreveport Times and the Monroe News Star. On September 1, 2009, Hilburn retired from the university position after forty-one years.[1]


​ ​Hilburn was born to Wiley Hilburn, Sr. (1913–2003), the son of a cotton gin operator, Ewing Hilburn, originally from Haynesville in northern Claiborne Parish. Hilburn, Sr., managed his father's three cotton gins in ​the Ruston region and then branched into dry cleaning. He offered the first cold storage for furs in Ruston. Hilburn's mother, the former Marie Trussell (1912–2007), was an educator who was once the principal of a one-room school in her native Antioch community near Ruston. Wiley Hilburn himself attended the A. E. Phillips Laboratory School on the Louisiana Tech campus.[2]

Wiley Hilburn, Sr., was the brother-in-law of Louisiana Lieutenant Governor C. E. "Cap" Barham, an attorney from Ruston who served during the Robert F. Kennon administration from 1952 to 1956, the year that Hilburn, Jr., graduated from Ruston High School. Barham was married to the former Carice Helen Hilburn (1907-1965), the sister of Wiley Hilburn, Sr. Hence, Hilburn, Jr., was a first cousin of the Barhams' older son, the late state Senator Charles C. Barham, a Democrat from Ruston, who served from 1964 to 1972 and again from 1976 to 1988.

In 1960, Hilburn procured his bachelor's degree in journalism from Louisiana Tech. While he was a student, he also worked for The Ruston Daily Leader,then owned by Clarence Faulk, gained practical newspaper experience, and became the editor of the paper. He thereafter received his master's degree in journalism from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.[3]

At twenty-four, Hilburn became in 1962 an editorial writer for The Shreveport Times, apparently the second youngest writer of editorials for a major newspaper in the nation. That same year, Patrick J. Buchanan, also born in 1938 and eight months Hilburn's junior, began writing editorials for the since defunct St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Buchanan was still twenty-three when he assumed his position in St. Louis.[4] ​ ​ Prior to his joining The Shreveport Times, the largest newspaper in North Louisiana, Hilburn was the telegraph editor of the former Monroe Morning World (since merged into The News Star of Monroe.[3]​ ​

The Tech Talk

​ Former Louisiana Tech President F. Jay Taylor hired Hilburn to "liberate the [college] newspaper," The Tech Talk, which had previously been a noncontroversial journal of mostly honor rolls and academic listings and failed to address student issues, such as the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and the sexual revolution.[5][1]

Hilburn named Stanley Tiner, whose career ended as the editor of The Sun Herald in Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. Tiner recalled in an interview with the the Monroe News Star that as the editor of The Tech Talk: "We started printing hard news ... And we wanted the editorial page to be powerful. We rebuked the notion that the voice of the paper should be trivial."[1]

Hilburn and Tiner then recruited Reginald Owens (born 1948) as the first African-American columnist of The Tech Talk. In a controversial defense of the Black Panthers, Owens recalled that Hilburn "taught me how I should temper [opinions], without changing my message."[1] Hilburn named Owens the first black editor of the college newspaper. One night after naming Owens as editor, Hilburn saw a cross burning on his lawn.[5] His first wife, Ellen, told him to call the police. He retorted, "That is the damn police."[1] Owens holds an endowed chair in the Tech journalism department and took over as head of the department in 2009 following Hilburn's retirement.[1]

Owens called Hilburn:​

​ the Huckleberry Finn of journalism. He was such a down to earth, real person and he was always so observant about his surroundings and about how people felt. That’s one of the things that I hope I picked up from him, to find out what people are thinking and to make sure their voices are heard.[5]

​ In addition to his duties with the news bureau, Hilburn served on the Louisiana Tech Administrative Planning Council. From his work on the Tech Athletic Council, he remained a steadfast follower of the university sports teams.[3]​ ​


A Democrat, Hilburn was an admirer of former Louisiana Insurance Commissioner James H. "Jim" Brown, who was forced from office in 2000 after multiple indictments but conviction only on one count for lying in an informal interview to an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Early in 2005, Hilburn reviewed Brown's book Justice Denied in which the former commissioner, who also served as a state senator and as the Louisiana Secretary of State, defends his conduct in office and denies having given false statements to the FBI. In his column Hilburn recalled the 1978 primary election for Louisiana's 5th congressional district seat (now held by the Republican Ralph Abraham in which the one-term Democratic incumbent, Thomas Jerald "Jerry" Huckaby, easily defeated Brown. Hilburn surprises readers; after praising Brown's public service, he reveals that he had voted for Huckaby in the race anyway.[6]

Hilburn was originally a more conservative Democrat who supported Richard M. Nixon and Barry Goldwater in the 1960 and 1964 presidential elections, respectively, but thereafter shifted ideological lines to become decades later an active backer of Barack H. Obama.[7]

On November 19, 2007, Hilburn published a column in The Shreveport Times which purports that former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco would be judged much kinder by history than the difficult circumstances which followed Hurricane Katrina. It was those problems that prompted Blanco , a Democrat who died in 2019, not to seek a second term in the nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 20, 2007. Victory instead went to Blanco's 2003 opponent, Republican Bobby Jindal. Wiley Hilburn attended a bipartisan reception for Blanco at the Squire Creek Country Club near his home in Choudrant in Lincoln Parish.[8]

Six weeks earlier, Hilburn had penned a column critical of what he saw as the attitude of certainty in the personality of President George W. Bush.[9]​ ​


Hilburn is the author of several books, including New Seasons (published in 2004, a retrospective on fifteen years of newspaper columns), Fragments (also the title of some past columns), and Reflections of North Louisiana.[3][10]​ ​ Fragments has been described as Hilburn's:
​ ​

​ own experiences — childhood, teen-age growing pains, and encounters as a practicing journalist, with all of his foibles, embarrassments, self doubts, and fantasizing — evoke a nostalgia with which everyone who grew up in a small town can identify. ... He paints a vivid picture of the North Louisiana landscape — sunshine and rain, changing seasons, fishing holes, and woodlands — places where all have been and to which all wish to return.[11]


​In 1983, Hilburn was cited by United Press International for the "Best Louisiana Column Award." In 1989, he received "Special Recognition" from then Governor Buddy Roemer for "Twenty Years of Dedication to Louisiana Tech University." In 1993, he received the Louisiana Tech Alumni Foundation Award for Outstanding Teacher.[3]

In 2009, on his retirement from Louisiana Tech, he was named "professor-emeritus." In 2010, he was named "Distinguished Alumnus" of the Louisiana Tech College of Liberal Arts.[12]

In 2001, Hilburn was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.[12] Other journalists inducted into the Hall of Fame have included The Shreveport Times political cartoonist Pap Dean, Iris Kelso of The New Orleans Times-Picayune, the late newspaper chain owner Sam Hanna, Sr., Bill Lynch, the Baton Rouge bureau chief of The Times-Picayune, and John LaPlante, Jr., of The Baton Rouge Advocate.​ ​​

Family life

​ Hilburn resided in Choudrant with his second wife, the former Kate Sartor (born March 5, 1949), a photographer[10] and the daughter of a prominent Shreveport couple active in business, civic, and church affairs, Charles Lane Sartor (1921-2014)[13] and Gloria Sanderson Sartor.[12]

Charles Lane Sartor, a graduate of Clifton Ellis Byrd High School in Shreveport and Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, fought in World War II in China under General Claire Chennault, was subsequently stationed in Chungking and Shanghai and became a member of the United States Air Force Reserve. Sartor was employed by Barnsdall Oil Company, Pan Am Southern Corporation, and in 1954, began a 37-year association with the Wheless Drilling Company. In this capacity he was exploration manager, a member of the board of directors, and an officer of the Tensas Delta Land Company. Finally, he opened an office as an independent geologist in association with his son-in-law, Ralph Guess Richardson. He was an officer of the C. W. Lane Company, a real estate development and management corporation founded in Shreveport by his grandfather, Charles W. Lane.[13]

Kate Hilburn's paternal aunt-by-marriage was the Shreveport water color artist Jean Oliver Sartor.[14]

Hilburn's first wife and the mother of his three children, is the former Ellen Riser (born April 1940), subsequently Ellen LaCroix of Ruston. She was the daughter of Gwendolyn Williamson Riser, a Louisiana Tech employee,[15] and Ben Dalton Riser (1914-2003), who for more than fifty years was the business manager of the Ruston Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Their children are Gregory Todd "Greg" Hilburn and wife, Tania. Greg Hilburn is the chief political writer for The Monroe News Star, at which Hilburn himself had worked in the early 1960s. Greg Hilburn received his degree in journalism from Louisiana Tech in 1984. His two other children, both of Ruston, are Kevin Scott Hilburn (born December 1963) and wife, Holley, and Anne Marie Hilburn (born c. 1966). He had a step-daughter, Dr. Jennifer O'Driscoll of Lawrence, Kansas, and five grandchildren.[12][13]

Hilburn's brother, Chester William "Chet" Hilburn (born 1945), also a Louisiana Tech graduate, is a retired newspaperman, having worked at The Houston Chronicle, The Alexandria Town Talk, The Camden (Arkansas) News, and the defunct Shreveport Journal. In 2012, Chet Hilburn authored The Mystique of Tiger Stadium: 25 Greatest Games: The Ascension of LSU Football. In the foreword to the book, Chet Hilburn credits his brother for encouraging his interest in LSU football.[16]​ ​

The last years

In 2009, shortly before his retirement as the journalism department chairman, Hilburn underwent successful heart bypass surgery.[1]He had also been treated in recent months for cancer, which had been in remission[17] at the time of his death from a brief illness of pneumonia in January 2014 at the age of seventy-five at North Louisiana Medical Center in Ruston. Services were held on January 19 at the First Presbyterian Church in Ruston.[18]Interment followed in the family plot at Greenwood Cemetery in Ruston.[12]

Former Louisiana Tech President Dan Reneau described Hilburn as "top quality. I worked closely with him for many years. His greatest quality was his compassion and his ability to put it in words. This was a gift that he passed on to hundreds of his students.[18]

On the day of his funeral, Hilburn's last column, another attempt to debunk the existence of black panthers in Louisiana, was carried in The 'Monroe News-Star.[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Bill Campbell, "Region's dean of journalism leaves editor's mark on generations, Monroe News Star, August 2, 2009.
  2. Hilburn: He was affirmed, but not spoiled. The Shreveport Times (February 11, 2007). Retrieved on January 18, 2014; no longer on-line.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Wiley W. Hilburn, Jr.. latech.edu. Retrieved on January 18, 2014; no longer on-line.
  4. Biography: Patrick J. Buchanan. buchanan.org. Retrieved on January 18, 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Well-known journalist, professor, Hilburn dead at 75. Monroe News Star. Retrieved on January 16, 2014; no longer on-line.
  6. Ron Watson, Jr. (May 12, 2005). Brown Makes Statewide Book Tour. The Ouachita Citizen: the lisburnpress.com. Retrieved on June 16, 2013.
  7. Wiley Hilburn Column: JFK - Guilt, grief and another direction. The Monroe News Star (November 22, 2013). Retrieved on November 22, 2013; no longer on-line.
  8. Wiley Hilburn: History to be kinder to Blanco than her storm-tossed administration. The Shreveport Times (November 19, 2007). Retrieved on January 18, 2014; no longer on-line.
  9. Wiley Hilburn: In Bush's world, optimism rules. The Shreveport Times (October 1, 2007). Retrieved on January 18, 2014; no longer on-line.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Sallie Rose Hollis. Wiley Hilburn's New Seasons. latech.edu. Retrieved on January 18, 2014; no longer on-line.
  11. Wiley W. Hilburn, Jr.. Fragments. latech.edu. Retrieved on January 18, 2014; no longer on-line.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Wiley Wilson Hilburn, Jr.. The Monroe News Star. Retrieved on January 18, 2014.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Charles Sartor obituary. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on September 26, 2014.
  14. E. Alton Sartor, Jr. (1917-2012). The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on January 18, 2014.
  15. Gwendolyn Williamson Riser. kilpatrickfuneralhomes.com. Retrieved on January 18, 2014.
  16. Chester William "Chet" Hilburn (2012). The Mystique of Tiger Stadium: 25 Greatest Games: The Ascension of LSU Football. WestBowPress: ISBN 1449752691. Retrieved on September 10, 2012.
  17. Teddy Allen. "100 percent Wiley, 100 percent of the time". The Monroe News Star. Retrieved on January 26, 2014; no longer on-line.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Funeral Arrangements Set for Louisiana Journalist Wiley Hilburn, Jr.. 710keel.com. Retrieved on January 17, 2014.
  19. Wiley Hilburn Column: Black panthers and Bigfoot. The Monroe News Star (January 19, 2014). Retrieved on January 19, 2014; no longer on-line.

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