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Interview with: Mrs Ray Dudley
Interviewed by: Unknown Interviewer
Date: November 14, 1975
Archive Number: OH 041.1
(MI = male interviewer)
MI: Mrs Dudley, where were you born?
MRD: In Cedartown, Georgia; July 14, 1896.
MI: And when did you first come to Houston?
MRD: In—New Year’s of 1903.
MI: What brought your family to Houston?
MRD: My father accepted the pastorship of the First Baptist Church of Houston.
MI: Your father was a prominent local minister.
MI: And he also did some work in what would become Memorial Hospital. Is that correct?
MRD: He established Memorial Hospital.
MI: And then you received your college education at Baylor?
MRD: Baylor University.
MI: And that’s where you met Mr Dudley?
MRD: That’s where I met Mr Dudley.
MI: And this was at what time?
MRD: In 1911.
MI: Was it considered unusual for a woman to attend Baylor at that time?
MRD: Oh, no. Not at all. You see, there are 2 Baylor colleges; one is for women only. But the university, which is the oldest university in the state of Texas, was coeducational from the beginning.
MI: And the fact that you met your husband there—I assume there were relations between the 2 schools. Cordial relations.
MRD: 1:28 Well, it was one school. But it had about equal numbers, I would say, of men and women students.
MI: Why did Mr Dudley decide to become editor of the Gulf Coast Oil News? That was in 1917.
MRD: Because he saw that the future of oil in Texas was very bright, and he thought that an oil journal would be a very fine business venture.
MI: What previous experience had he had with the oil industry?
MRD: He was—had been an oil reporter for the Houston Post. We had moved from Dallas, where he operated a bureau for 5 newspapers, to accept a reporter’s job on the Post, because his assignment was to be covering the new oil discovery down at Goose Creek—oil in Texas, I should say. Spindletop and Goose Creek were at that time, of course, the 2 big boom productions in the state of Texas.
MI: Now at this time, the Gulf Publishing Company had not been formed—that comes later, right?
MI: Okay, would you—what was the first year of the founding of the company?
MRD: Charter was granted by the State of Texas November 18, 1916, and the first meeting of stockholders—Mr Joe Kathrina, F.B. Mitchell, and Henry R. Shutz were present November 20. Also on that same date the Gulf Coast Oil News was purchased for $4000 cash, and the first director’s meeting the following officers were elected: Joe Kathrina,
F. B. Mitchell, Henry R. Shutz. On February 10, 1917, Mr Howard R. Hughes was elected a director. On April 7—that’s Mr Hughes, Sr, of course—on April 7, 1917, the capital stock was increased from 7000 to 10,000 shares, and on April 23, 1917, Mr R. L. Dudley, editor of Gulf Coast Oil News, was elected to the board of directors. April 23, 1917, Mr R. L. Dudley was elected secretary of the Gulf Publishing Company to replace Henry R. Shutz. October 25, 1917, Howard R. Hughes resigned as a director. On November 20, 1917, Ray L. Dudley was shown to own 5 shares. On November 20, 1917, the financial statements presented showed a profit of $12.29, a net worth of $10,000, which included goodwill of $3600. On March 19, 1918, R. L. Dudley was elected vice-president and treasurer, succeeding Mr F. B. Mitchell. Joe Kathrina resigned. On
April 16, 1918, the Gulf Coast Oil News changed its name to the Oil Weekly, formerly Gulf Coast Oil News. On August 8, 1918, Mr Mitchell resigned as president, and R. L. Dudley was elected president, C. H. Lane elected director. On November 19, 1918, Mrs Annie L. Kuppa was elected secretary of the Gulf Publishing Company.
December 28, 1918, showed Ray L. Dudley owning 29 shares out of a total of 55 shares represented.
MI: 5:36 What were the principle activities of the company in its early years besides publishing the magazine or the paper?
MRD: Those were the activities, just the publication of the paper.
MI: Did people at that time—all of the people involved in the company now—foresee that it would expand the way it did?
MRD: I’m sure that is not true, because they were—within a period of 2 years the original stockholders were all out, and Mr Dudley was in possession of the—in control of the company, shall we say.
MI: Well, when did Mr Dudley branch out to a second publication? At what time did that occur? Or other publications, I should say.
MRD: I have—can you shut off the machine?
Break in recording.
MI: We were discussing the development of the other publications of your company, and they apparently came about as the oil industry itself grew out—
MRD: When the flow of oil from the Texas fields became so large that they needed coverage for specialized fields of the oil industry, that was the cause of the birth of the Pipeline Industry and The Refiner, so called in those days. And then the—when the business—the entire oil industry business expanded, not only U.S.-wide but worldwide, it became necessary to publish the composite catalogs of each respective branch of the industry so that people in the oil business the world over could have immediate and consolidated information on where to buy special equipment for their particular needs.
MI: So the 2 main activities of the company were the publication of specialized magazines and the publication of these catalogs.
MRD: 8:10 That’s right. Each—specialized catalogs as well as magazines.
MI: How did you go about finding the right people to run these magazines as they became more esoteric and more specialized dealing with pipelines and the world oil scene? How did you find talent to write articles and to publish these magazines?
MRD: Well, Mr Dudley was an excellent scout for talent, and he had the ability to interview young men and—some of whom stayed with us until they were quite old. Now, for instance, Mr Silas Ragsdale, who edited the Galveston paper for many years, came here as editor of the The Refiner and held that position for many years. And we picked men who were experienced in their fields and put them on the journal which their particular training had fitted them best for.
MI: Now do you think your husband’s newspaper training may have had something to do with his eye for talent?
MRD: I’m sure it did. I’m sure it did.
MI: This is something I’d like to pursue a little further while we’re on it. While he was president of the company, he also continued to be active in newspaper work. Is that correct?
MRD: Right, right.
MI: How did that come about?
MRD: Through the solicitation of Governor Sterling and Governor—
MI: This was to continue to be active with the Post.
MRD: Yes. But for a limited period of time, and he had the permission, kept his office of his own business running all the time, had a private line to his own office, a very efficient secretary, and he had communication with his business, which at that time was comparatively small, housed in the old Maxwell Home over on Dallas and Chenevert and had a small printing plant over there. But he at all times had access to his own company while he was serving in an advisory committee, advisory and executive committee both under the Post’s ownership by first Governor Sterling and then Governor Hobby.
MI: He must have been an extraordinarily busy man.
MRD: 10:57 He was. He was always full of energy and full of ideas.
MI: One question which occurred to me concerning these specialized publications is the following: Did you have or do you continue to have a consistent editorial policy in these magazines, a position on world oil resources or national oil resources?
MRD: Mr Dudley considered the journals as stewards of the interests of the oil business in all its variations, but he had a firm conviction that no news must ever be published unless it was absolutely known, absolutely known to be valid and could be substantiated. And then he had the rare good fortune to select editors who had good minds and—plus good knowledge, detailed knowledge of the particular industry of which their magazine was devoted, or their journal was devoted.
MI: Well, of course, these magazines do have a reputation for factual accuracy, and they are at the top of their respective field. But what I was wondering in terms of editorial comment if there was ever any commentary added to the factual reporting. Was there an editorial policy?
MRD: Oh, yes. We have a very—a core now of very strong editorial writers. And Mr Dudley was a leader in that field in our company in that he felt an oil journal must have a strong editorial policy.
MI: What were the recurring themes in his editorials? Were there certain things that he adhered to over the years?
MRD: Well, he adhered to progress in the oil industry, and he was a great deputy of having sound citizenship for all the people, and he demanded of his men that they be truthful in every respect and try to serve their country as intelligently as they could, never to exaggerate and never to play up the oil industry in false colors, to give the facts to the people and give the right interpretation to the news.
MI: How did your husband feel about government regulation of the oil and gas industries?
MRD: He thought it was far overdone.
MI: And this was a theme in his editorials.
MRD: That was a theme in his editorials.
MI: How do you feel about the same topic?
MRD: I feel that if the government would just let the oil interests run their own business, this country would be infinitely better off, because there are many people in government who know nothing about the oil industry.
MI: 14:51 This is an opinion widely held by your readers, I assume.
MRD: I think you’re perfectly correct in that assumption.
MI: Well I didn’t mean to interrupt you. Would you care to elaborate on your belief a little bit more?
MRD: No, I just—
MI: About the virtues of government noninterference?
MRD: I think the virtues of government noninterference, to borrow your phrase, should be a matter of deep concern to every intelligent citizen. Not only the citizens with any direct or indirect connection with the oil industry in any of its many ramifications, but every thinking citizen should resent the fact that people, because they are in a political place, have the right to dictate to people who have been in industry for many years, know the oil industry well, know the problems, and know the possibilities of serving to the citizens of the country, and know far better than any politician how to run an oil company and how to run an oil manufacturing machinery company.
MI: There’s a little bit of a paradox here insofar as your publications, while they advocated these views, were reaching a small, or relatively small, group of professionals who already held the same views. You really weren’t telling that to the intelligent public, to borrow your phrase.
MRD: Well our circulations—our publications, excuse me—are specialized publications to the industry. Now, we hope—of course, they go to—well—hundreds of thousands of offices all over the world, and we have widespread circulation and readership. We get correspondence from all over the world about them. But the position of the journals has always been to uphold the valid worth and growth of all branches of the industry, to give the people all the news that is newsworthy, and to serve as media for the distribution of all new discoveries in machinery and producing—production methods of all kinds, and in the wisest distribution of oil and gas the world over.
MI: We’ve been talking for a little while now about your husband—his ideas, his policies, how he founded the publications. But now I’d like to talk about your role in the company. When did you first become an officer?
MRD: Oh, heavens above. Of the company?
MI: 18:32 Yes. That is correct.
MRD: Better shut it off again.
MI: All right.
Break in recording.
MI: Well we were discussing when you first became an active officer in the company, and it was after your husband’s death; is that correct?
MI: Previously you had been a director.
MI: What did you perceive as your responsibility upon assuming an active position in the company?
MRD: Mr Dudley gave me 3 emphatic dos and 3 emphatic don’ts. He said, “Do not attempt to run either one of those companies but be there every morning, and at Publishing be
vice-president in charge of personnel relations. Not hiring or firing or anything like that, but just take care of all the joys and all the sorrows of the employees, and stay close to them.” And at Printing I am chairman of the board, but Mr William J. Hudspeth runs the printing company 100%. And I’m a deeply interested spectator and friend of everybody over there, but the publishing company is much smaller, and it’s small enough that I can take care of the personal joys and sorrows. Now, the old-timers over at the printing company—many have been with us, and they stay with us until they practically drop in their tracks—I know most of them—
MI: Not from overwork, I hope?
MRD: No, just old age. And of course, one by one they leave us. But when the company was small, they were—but it’s so large now that it’s impossible for me to know everybody over there. But I just am chairman of the board and do sign all master checks and make all major expansion decisions along with the very, very talented president of the company, who is the chief executive, really.
MI: For clarification, what is the practical distinction between the printing company on the one hand and the publishing company on the other?
MRD: They are totally separate corporations. The ownership is largely the same, the major ownership, but they operate as totally different corporations.
MI: 21:32 What are the duties of each?
MRD: Well, the duties of the Gulf Publishing Company are to get out the very best journals that they can in the four major branches of the oil industry, and we have a very heavy mail service also. The duties of the printing company are to print not only our journals but to serve the whole industry and give them the very best technical printing. Well, I would say to serve the general public and the oil industry.
MI: That’s why the printing company also publishes things like telephone books and small journals and things like that.
MRD: That’s right. That’s right. And a very large number of annual reports, because we have many, many friends over this long period of years scattered all through the business community.
MI: The only reason I asked was the fact that many corporations ignore such distinctions, and they will carry on a number of activities under one corporate title, one company.
MRD: No, we’re in the printing business. Now we do print all Gulf Publishing publications, but we’re in the general printing business.
MI: As well.
MRD: As well. Right.
MI: Well, let me put it this way. When your husband first purchased—no, not purchased but became the editor of the Gulf Coast Oil News in 1917 and then went on to found the company, it was only one company. Is that correct?
MRD: That’s right. That’s right.
MI: Now when did there become 2 distinct companies?
MRD: I knew you were going to ask me that question. Let’s see when the printing company was spun off from the—
MI: Good words. Spin off. That’s what I’m after.
MRD: 23:57 On April 13, 1953, a plan of reorganization was approved, which included Gulf Publishing Company name changed to Gulf Printing Company. Gulf Printing Company will transfer those assets associated with the publishing business to a new corporation named Gulf Publishing Company, which will have an authorized capital stock of 96,000 shares Class A and 8,000 shares Class B, all no-par value. Stockholders will receive
1 share of Gulf Publishing Company stock for each share of Gulf Printing Company stock held. And on December 28 of the same year it was resolved at a meeting of the board of the directors that the plan of reorganization be consummated as of January 1, 1954.
MI: And this was just because the—
MRD: Well, that was—
MI: —2 divisions had become so big that it was expedient to divide?
MRD: That’s exactly the reason for the division. The 2 companies had each become large enough so that it was mandatory to have 2 corporations.
MI: In the course of my research, I came across a quotation from you concerning the duties of an employee relations manager or officer. And you said, and I quote, “My idea of good employee relations is to see that there is a mutual loyalty between the employee and the employer. There should always be an understanding and a will to succeed between management and employees.” Those are very noble words. How did you go about realizing that goal in your capacity as that officer?
MRD: Well, I am a very friendly person.
MI: Yes, indeed.
MRD: I know everybody in this company by their first name. Now, once in a while they slip in a new one, and I say, “Who’s that?” and I identify them. But I am very close to my employees. I share their joys and their sorrows, and in illness they are always remembered. And they are—this is a family company in the sense that the employees are members of the family, the company family. That’s the way I regard them, every one of them, as members of the company family. And they are treated accordingly.
MI: That’s striking insofar as so many corporations in Houston are large and impersonal, or so it would seem.
MRD: Now that I am saying in my capacity as vice-president in charge of employee relations at Publishing, which is much, much smaller than Printing. But over here, in the smaller of the 2 companies, we have close personal relationships, and we do share the joys and the sorrows, and they all know me by sight and by name, and I couldn’t recall instantly, but I can come very near it. It’s a matter of being interested in your employees.
MI: This would help explain why your employees stay on for so long. The family atmosphere.
MRD: Yes. That’s right.
MI: 27:38 Well, that’s very interesting. It’s seldom that one sees a situation like that.
MI: Well, I have gone through my prepared questions, but always at the end of the interview I wonder if I’ve missed something, so I just like to turn the interview over to you and ask if there are any further comments you have about the printing company and publishing company, either one. The early days, the activities now.
MRD: Well, I should like to say that both companies have experienced a very healthy, steady growth over the years. Of course, when the Gulf Publishing Company was first started, it was with very, very little capital and a small number of employees. But with the growth of the oil industry, the company has grown healthily and, of course, both the size of the business and the number of employees has grown accordingly. And we’ve had a very stable group of men. Most of our assistant executives have been with us for many years, and we seldom lose an employee except through death or old age. Very seldom. And I think it’s the feeling that everyone here feels a part, a real part, in this company and an interest in it. And this begins with them in their first training, as youngsters, and it lasts for many, many years also. Now, over at the Printing, where there are so many employees involved, there can’t be that extremely close personal relationship. For one thing, if you’re running one of those big presses over there, you’ve got to pay attention to that! But I never walk through that plant that I don’t have a continual waving of hands the whole time I walk through there, which is a great joy to me and a great satisfaction, because I have absolutely nothing to do with Printing, with running the Printing. I am chairman of the board, which consists largely of signing all large master checks, and
Mr Hudspeth is a very fine president over there and a close personal friend. But the friendship of the men in the plant is very precious to me. And whenever I walk through the plant I have evidence of their feeling that I belong to them, too, which gives me great pleasure.
MI: I might also comment that one of the reasons for your good fortune and growth and stability has been the good fortune of the city of Houston.
MRD: That’s right! We have grown with the city of Houston, and we have grown with the oil industry, and I would—a very good friend, and he meant it for good advice, told
Mr Dudley he would never establish national oil journals way down here in Texas. And Mr Dudley’s answer to him was, “Why not? The oil is in Texas.”
MRD: And now that oil is worldwide, we have offices worldwide. And we are active wherever the oil industry or the gas industry are active.
MI: I can’t imagine what Mr Dudley’s friend was thinking about when he—
MRD: 32:04 Well, that’s what he said, and he was a man who owned small oil journal, a beast, and his has withered on the vine long, long, long ago. But—and Harlan, bless his heart, he’s dead long ago, too, but he was very firm in that. And Mr Dudley came to me and said, “Fredi, would you like to live in New York?” And I said, “Ray, I’d live in Kamchatka if it’s the best place for your business.” But he said, “Well, I think the oil’s down here in Texas, and I think we can build national and international magazines down here.” And he’s proven to have been right.
MI: He certainly has.
Well, this has been a very enjoyable interview.
MRD: Well, I’ve enjoyed—I mean—I hope I haven’t been too awkward and stutter-y.
MI: Oh, no. This is very fine, and on behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives and Research Center, I would like to thank you very much.
MRD: Well, I’m very grateful for you to come out. I just—it’s been a—I just—did you major in journalism, did you tell me?
MI: Oh, no ma’am. I’m a—
MRD: No, you majored in history—
MI: History, yes.