Willis C. Tucker
Willis C. Tucker devoted more than 25 years to educating prospective journalists in Tennessee, and for many years played a pivotal role in the close relationship between the University of Tennessee's School of Journalism and the Tennessee Press Association.
Professor Tucker held editorial positions on daily and weekly newspapers, ranging from reporter to editor and including work as state, wire, news and managing editor. He also did advertising, press association, publicity, and radio news work in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Professor Tucker held a bachelor's degree from West Virginia Tech and a master's degree from West Virginia University, and also studied at the University of Southern California and the Ohio State University. He taught at the University of Kentucky for 10 years, one as head of the journalism program. He also taught at Marshall University for seven years. In 1947 he established the Department of Journalism at the University of Tennessee. He was largely responsible for elevating the status of the Department to a freestanding School of Journalism in 1957 and he eventually played a key advisory role in the formation of the College of Communications in 1969. He served as director of the school until 1972.
He established the Tennessee High School Press Association the year after the Department of Journalism began in order to provide a link between the department and the state's high schools.
While its chief goal was to provide advice and guidance to high school journalism students and their advisers, Professor Tucker used it as an instrument to encourage recognition of journalism as an important course of study at the high school level in the state. He often taught workshop sessions during the annual High School Journalism Institute at UT.
Along with Professor John Lain, Professor Tucker established an Industrial Editing Institute to encourage the improvement of writing and editing in-house organs for businesses and industries in Tennessee and surrounding states. He played a major role in establishing the UT-TPA's annual Press Institute in 1952 and was instrumental in organizing the programs of speakers and workshops at the Institute for many years.
Professor Tucker provided assistance to the TPA and the UT Public Relations office in administering the annual UT-TPA State Newspaper Contests. He also was instrumental in developing additional training workshops for journalists, which were supported by the Newspaper Fund as well as a series of News Clinics for Tennessee journalists in the 1960s.
Professor Tucker worked closely with Walter Pulliam, TPA president in 1965, to create the Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame, a joint undertaking of the TPA and the UT School of Journalism.
Under his guidance, a student chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, later the Society of Professional Journalists, was established in the School of Journalism. He also sponsored the establishment of a chapter of Kappa Tau Alpha, the national collegiate journalism honor society. He was responsible for the School of Journalism being accredited by the American Council on Education in Journalism in 1955. The program has received reaccreditation every five years since.
For more than 20 years, he headed the University's Publication Board, which is responsible for the operation of UT's independent student daily newspaper and its yearbook.
As an administrator, Professor Tucker was instrumental in expanding the journalism program to include advertising, broadcasting and public relations sequences. Under his guidance, a master's degree in journalism was established in 1968, and he offered wise counsel later when the College of Communications was developing its doctor of philosophy degree.
Professor Tucker was an exacting and demanding teacher of writing, editing, makeup and design, and journalism history. Hundreds of students learned to be professional journalists under his watchful eyes. Many went on to be reporters, copy editors, city and managing editors and publishers of newspapers in Tennessee and across the nation. One of his graduates has won two Pulitzer Prizes. Others have become teachers of journalism in high schools and universities. And still others have become nationally recognized authors of both prose and fiction.
Professor Tucker is remembered with fondness and perhaps some lingering trepidation by literally hundreds of former students. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the School of Journalism, one wrote that Professor Tucker's "knowledge of journalism history constantly amazed us, while his aversion to anything 'germy' amused us." And another recalled Professor Tucker's famous penchant for the careful management of resources with this comment: "He kept us counting copy pencils and not wasting glue in editing class."