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December 21, 2010

Avis Tucker Passes Away, Warrensburg Icon

County loses friend, Avis Tucker

Warrensburg - Former Daily Star-Journal publisher, philanthropist and pioneer for women in the newspaper business, Avis Tucker, 95, Kansas City, died Dec. 17, 2010, of "natural causes"Sheriff Chuck Heiss, who knew Tucker for more than 20 years, called her "an icon."
"How do you describe Avis? - just a great human being, a wonderful individual and a true lady. What a loss to this community. She is probably the biggest single friend this community ever had," Heiss said Monday. "When you looked at her style of journalism - and working closely with city and county governments and charitable organizations - you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who has done as much as Avis did for this community."
Tucker and her husband, William Tucker, bought The Daily Star-Journal in 1947 and the paper stayed in the family for 60 years, until 2007. At that time, Avis Tucker sold the business to another newspaper family, the Bradleys, of the News-Press Gazette Co., St. Joseph.
Avis Tucker took over as the newspaper's sole publisher after her husband died of a heart attack in 1966, and began making history.
"I decided I was going to run this paper. I was going to try. I told everyone that I had more nerve than ability, which was the truth," Avis Tucker once said.
She also is quoted as saying, "I have felt an obligation to publish a paper which serves the community and takes sides on issues that I think are best for the community and the most people."
Further anecdotes collected by Missouri newspaper historian William H. Taft include that Avis Tucker earned recognition during her 41 years at the helm as "a pioneer for women in business." She served not only as one of the state's rare female publishers, but in other leadership roles. She became the first female president of Missouri Associated Dailies in 1973; received the Missouri School of Journalism's Honor Medal in 1976; in 1982 served as the Missouri Press Association's first female president; in 1982 also received the National Newspaper Association's McKinney Award, given to a woman who "exhibited distinguished service to the community press"; became the first woman inducted into the Missouri Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1992; and on May 6 became chair emeritus of the Missouri Press Association's Foundation Board, which she helped found and fund.
"She was very low-key about her giving to that organization, but she played a significant role in starting the foundation, which is now in its 26th year, Missouri Press Association Executive Director Doug Crews said.The organization and he share her loss, Crews said.
"She was a true friend of mine and a great lady," he said. "She truly was the first lady in so many organizations."Keith Sproat, who retired Oct. 18 as The Star-Journal's pressman after 48 years in the business, recalled the difficulty Avis Tucker faced when thrust unexpectedly into the publisher's chair."She was a very precise person, very business-minded, and she figured everything out," and she used those traits to learn how to operate a newspaper, Sproat said.
Crews said, "She was just thrown into the publisher's chair and she told me she could have sold the newspaper, but instead she grabbed hold of that position and became one of Missouri's leading publishers of that last century. She broke the ice as a woman publisher in our state."
But before succeeding as a pioneer, Avis Tucker had to take care of business.
Sproat said William Tucker oversaw moving into the new offices on East Market Street, and then began the change to a newer "hot lead" printing process.
"We were in that transition point whenever he passed away," Sproat said, and Avis Tucker rose to the task of completing the work. "She just went right in to it. She was one of those people who were bound and determined to get a project done."
Making the most of her new role, Avis Tucker called other publishers around the state for advice about how to run the newspaper, Crews said.
"Those publishers took her under their wing," he said. "They had real respect for her. She wanted to give Warrensburg and Johnson County a fine newspaper and that's what she did."
Born in 1915 to farmers Ralph and Nellie Green of Concordia, Kan., her family moved to Pleasant Hill, Mo., when she turned 18 months old. She graduated from Southwest High School in Kansas City, and from the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1937. She married William Tucker on June 8, 1941, in Memphis, Tenn.In addition to newspaper work, some of Avis Tucker's other accomplishments include serving as the first woman president of the University of Missouri Board of Curators in 1972, on the first Missouri Gaming Commission in 1993 and as president and a permanent trustee of the State Historical Society of Missouri.
"Because of her high standards, she was asked to serve on those types of boards and commissions," Crews said.
Further accomplishments include being named director emeritus of Utilicorp United Inc., receiving the Chancellor's Medal from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, being named "Outstanding Boss of the Year" by the Warrensburg Jaycees and being one of the University of Missouri's 100 distinguished women graduates. Heiss added that Avis Tucker supported Big Brothers Big Sisters, Warrensburg Senior Center and Survival Adult Abuse Center.
"Those were very near and dear to her," Heiss said, later adding she did not mention her largesse publicly. "She was private about this, but she was very generous toward a lot of charitable organizations, particularly in the area of child welfare."
Sproat said, "She was a caring person. She did a lot of things she didn't want anybody to know about - donations she made and things like that. If there was someone in need, she took care of them. ... That's just the kind of person she was."
On her 90th birthday, people lined up outside The Star-Journal for a chance to wish her well.
"There were people from all over the state who came to that," Sproat said, including from the University of Missouri, the newspaper business and various organizations.
Sproat described Avis Tucker as a good businesswoman and fair-minded person.
"She was to be admired," he said.Two nephews, Bob and Richard Green, survive Avis Tucker, 95, Kansas City.Her caregiver, Bessie Williams, on Monday said the family plans a private service.Avis Tucker spent the last years of her life living on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.
In understated style, Avis Tucker once said, "I don't handle leisure time well."

Rep. Ike Skelton

legislator photo
Madam Speaker, it is with sorrow that I inform the House of the death of Mrs. Avis Green Tucker, a distinguished Missouri citizen from Warrensburg, in the 4th Congressional District. Avis Green Tucker was not just my own long-time friend. She was one of Missouri's most highly respected newspaper publishers. She was a willing volunteer frequently called to important service by Missouri governors from both political parties. And she was a particularly inspiring role model among women leaders in our state.
Avis and her husband, William Tucker, bought the Daily Star-Journal in 1947 and the paper stayed in the Tucker family for some 60 years, until its sale in 2007 to another distinguished Missouri newspaper family, the Bradleys of St. Joseph. Bill Tucker was serving as publisher in Warrensburg when he died of a heart attack in 1966. Avis took over as one of the few female daily newspaper publishers in the Midwest. She once said: ``I decided I was going to run this paper. I was going to try. I told everyone that I had more nerve than ability, which was the truth.'' But that was a typically reticent and humble statement from a woman whose abilities were quite remarkable. Those abilities were widely recognized. In 1982, Avis became the first female president of the Missouri Press Association. That was just one of many ``firsts'' achieved by Avis Tucker, including serving as the first female president of the Missouri Associated Dailies organization, and becoming the first woman inducted into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame. She received the National Newspaper Association's McKinney Award, given to a woman who ``exhibited distinguished service to the community press.'' Just this past May, Avis became chair emeritus of the Missouri Press Association's Foundation Board, which she helped found and fund.
She served not only as one of the state's rare female publishers, but in other leadership roles, particularly at our mutual alma mater, the University of Missouri. Mizzou's world-famous School of Journalism honored her with its Honor Medal in 1976. And in 1972, Avis became the first woman president of the University of Missouri's governing body, the Board of Curators. Her service as a curator has particular significance for me, since she was appointed to succeed her late husband as a curator upon his death. And Bill Tucker had been appointed to succeed my father, Isaac Newton Skelton III, upon his passing. In Missouri, one of the highest honors one can achieve is being named to help guide our land-grant state university, and this is an honor that has been treasured by both the Skelton and Tucker families.
Avis Green Tucker will be remembered fondly by all who had the privilege of knowing her, including me. When she passed away at age 95 on Friday, December 17th, 2010, she had lived a life that was exemplary. Her leadership was superb, her newspaper's readers and her community were well-served, and her place in Missouri journalism and public service is secure. Avis is survived by two nephews, Bob and Richard Green. I know members of the Congress will join me in paying tribute to the life, achievements and service of Avis Green Tucker, and in extending our condolences to her family and friends.

Distinguished Service Award

Established in 1968 to recognize extraordinary service to and support of The State Historical Society of Missouri, the Distinguished Service Award has honored officers, trustees, volunteers, and staff members. It is the highest honor bestowed by the Society.

Distinguished Service Award Recipients

  • 2013 — Peggy Platner, Columbia
  • 2012 — Frank Nickell, Cape Girardeau
  • 2011 — Walter A. Schroeder, Columbia
  • 2010 — Doug Crews, Columbia
  • 2009 — W. Raymond Wood, Columbia
  • 2008 — Alan R. Havig, Columbia
  • 2007 — Dick Franklin, Independence
  • 2006 — William E. Parrish, Starkville, MS
  • 2005 — Bruce H. Beckett, Columbia
  • 2004 — Lynn Wolf Gentzler, Columbia
  • 2003 — James W. Goodrich, Columbia
  • 2002 — Lawrence O. Christensen, Rolla
  • 2001 — William E. Foley, Warrensburg
    — Perry G. McCandless, Warrensburg
  • 2000 — John "Buck" O'Neil, Kansas City
  • 1999 — H. Riley Bock, New Madrid
    — Virginia G. Young, Columbia
  • 1998 — James C. Olson, Kansas City
  • 1997 — Noble E. Cunningham, Columbia
    — Arvarh E. Strickland, Columbia
  • 1996 — Avis G. Tucker, Warrensburg
    — Emory Melton, Cassville
  • 1995 — Albert M. Price, Columbia
    — Rush H. Limbaugh, Cape Girardeau
  • 1994 — Thomas F. Eagleton, St. Louis
  • 1993 — Robert C. Smith, Columbia
  • 1992 — Adolf E. and Rebecca B. Schroeder, Columbia
  • 1991 — Jean Tyree Hamilton, Marshall
    — James C. Kirkpatrick, Warrensburg
  • 1990 — Joseph Webber, St. Louis
  • 1989 — Sidney Larson, Columbia
  • 1988 — Anna T. Tibbe, St. Louis
  • 1987 — Francis M. Barnes III, Kirkwood
  • 1986 — Leslie Anders, Warrensburg