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Vivian Castleberry, Pioneering Dallas Journalist, Dies At Age 95

Vivian Castleberry, a North Texas journalism pioneer and peace activist, died Wednesday morning, her family said. She lost a battle with breast cancer at age 95.

Castleberry knew there were plenty of stories that weren’t being told. So in 1956, when she took over as editor of what were then called the "women's pages" in the Dallas Times Herald, she wasn’t interested in the stories her male supervisors thought she should cover.

“I was working for an all-male management, who thought that women were interested only in what women traditionally did,” Castleberry told KERA earlier this year. “I knew that there were stories out there that were not being covered and I wanted to hold those stories up for a reading public that was ready for them.”

Pushing for stories with an edge  

Castleberry edited the women's pages for nearly three decades. She was told to focus on food, fashion and society -- but she pushed back, assigning stories about women's rights, child abuse and depression. She even changed the name of the section to “Living.”

Later, Castleberry became the first woman appointed to the editorial board of the Dallas Times Herald – a position she described as “lonely.” Castleberry won numerous journalism awards for her work.

She raised five daughters and juggled work and parenting alongside her husband Curtis W. Castleberry.

"Curt and I talked long hours about whether or not I could pull this off,” she recalled. “I was working at the time when a woman’s place was in the home and she was not expected to go out and have a career. So I could have entertained a lot of guilt.”

Video: Watch a KERA-TV documentary about Castleberry

'I don't have time for regrets'

Vivian Anderson was born in 1922 and grew up in East Texas. Her dad was injured as a soldier during World War I, and that left her mom to take on a lot of the responsibilities at home.

Her dad taught her some lessons.

“I am the daughter of a WWI veteran who around our dining room table would very often say that there are better ways of solving the world’s problems than by killing each other,” she said.

In 1984, after a 28-year-career, Castleberry retired from the Times Herald and became a peace activist.

She founded Peacemakers Inc. and traveled several times to Russia, where she helped lead women's leadership conferences.

Castleberry also wrote four books, including "Daughters of Dallas," a story of “those ignored, overlooked, forgotten people," as well as the city's ethnic and cultural diversity.

Earlier this year, the former journalist turned peacemaker said she appreciated the life she’d lived.

“I have lived a life that very few people get to live and I don’t have time for regrets because there are other things still waiting for me to do,” she said.

She said her health was winding down and that she knew her days were numbered, but Vivian Castleberry said she was living life to the fullest.

Learn more

Watch: KERA TV will re-air "Texas Trailblazer: Vivian Castleberry" on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, at 6 p.m.; and on Friday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.