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Pioneering Dallas Journalist Vivian Castleberry, 95, On A Life With No Regrets

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Sylvia Komatsu
/
KERA News
Vivian Castleberry splits her time between her home in Dallas and a daughter's house in Georgia.

At 95, journalism pioneer Vivian Castleberry has seen it all. She was born in the roaring '20s, came of age during the Great Depression and interviewed seven First Ladies.

For nearly three decades, she edited what were at first called the women's pages at the Dallas Times Herald. She took issue with what her male bosses wanted her to focus on – homemaking, fashion and society – subjects they assumed were all women were interested in.  

“I knew there were stories that were not being covered, and I wanted to hold those stories up to a reading public that was interested in them,” she said.

At first, Castleberry said her efforts were met with puzzlement and some resistance. 

“My husband once said to me, ‘honey, why don’t you just do what they want you to do and what they pay you for and not push so hard?’” she recalled. Her answer? "I know I'm right." 

She kept pushing, and her team tackled subjects such as rape, child abuse and race relations. Castleberry also raised five daughters at a time when work-life balance wasn't even a concept for women. She credits her husband, whom she called "the world's most liberated man."

“I was working at a time when a woman’s place was in the home and she was not expected to go out and have a career," said Castleberry. "I could’ve entertained a lot of guilt, luckily I didn’t.”  

She eventually became the first woman to serve on the Dallas Times Herald's editorial board. When Castleberry retired, she started a new career as a peace activist. 

These days, she's had to slow down. Castleberry's dealing with another bout of breast cancer, which she says has spread to her spine, liver and lungs.

"I know that the days are numbered, but I have lived a life that very few people get to live," she said. "I don't have time for regrets because there are other things still waiting for me to do."

Here's KERA-TV's "Texas Trailblazers" profile of Vivian Castleberry from 2009:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuUutO5mulM&feature=youtu.be

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and KERANews.org. She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.