Randy Preddy, retired publisher of the Waco Tribune-Herald , died early Saturday at his home after a sudden illness. He was 71.
Preddy was publisher of the Tribune-Herald from 1978 to 1996.
For several years after he retired from the newspaper, he taught journalism at Baylor University.
Throughout his years in Waco, Preddy was active in civic and cultural affairs and in the leadership at First Presbyterian Church.
His career as a newsman began with typewriters and hot type, and moved to computer systems and the Internet.
Preddy grew up in Little Rock, Ark. As a cub reporter, he covered the controversial integration of Central High School there in 1957.
“I supposed that assignment drew me into journalism as a career,” he later said. He came to Waco from Dayton (Ohio) Newspapers, Inc., but he already knew the city well.
His mother was a Waco native and he spent many boyhood summers here with his grandparents, who owned a North Waco grocery store.
Preddy earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
He was a cheerleader at Northwestern and joined the U.S. Navy after graduation. He later served in the Naval Reserve.
Preddy worked as a reporter and copy editor at newspapers in Arkansas and Kentucky before joining The Daily News in Dayton, Ohio, where he eventually was promoted to management.
After moving to Waco, Preddy served as president of United Way and Waco Symphony Association, and as chairman of the Waco Foundation.
He was president of the Waco Business League and vice president of the Baylor/Waco Foundation. He was a director of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and Central Texas Literacy Coalition.
The Texas Daily Newspaper Association awarded Preddy the Pat Taggart Newspaper Leader of the Year award in 1994 for his work during its coverage of the Branch Davidian raid and siege in 1993.
His wife, Sarah Preddy, told the Tribune-Herald on Saturday, “He was very dedicated to the community and to Baylor University, teaching at Baylor after he retired from the newspaper.
“He did many things, including starting the Storybook Christmas to provide books to children,” she continued.
She said he had just graduated from Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., and was a young reporter for the local newspaper during the difficult integration process in the late 1950s.
“The editors told him, ‘Well, you still look like a student. We want you to go in there and talk to them and see what they think about all this,’” Sarah Preddy said.
Bob Lott, editor-in-chief under Preddy for 27 years beginning in 1979, said, “Randy was a good man and a loyal friend. He was a courageous publisher dedicated to a newspaper of service, of quality and of independence, and he insisted that it get to the reader on time. Journalism and the newspaper world will miss him, as will his family and many friends.
“During the Branch Davidian incident in 1993, he worked hours as long as anyone at the newspaper,” Lott continued. “He could have remained in the publisher’s office and watched everyone else work, but he rolled up his sleeves and worked beside us. He was willing to do anything to get the job done.”
Ann Roznovsky, on the staff of the paper for many years, said Preddy was “an excellent publisher. He took us through the difficult change from ‘hot type,’ with type set in metal, to electronic ‘cold type,’ and he presided over major additions to the building between 1984 and 1986 that gave us nice working conditions, a big change from the heat and dirt of hot metal.”
She and Dan Savage, Preddy’s successor as publisher, voiced high praise for his role as founder of Waco’s “A Storybook Christmas” program that gives about 19,000 books to local children every year.
“He died just as the books were about to be given out for the 21st year, and he was still in charge of it,” she said. “He was very active in the community in many ways, but this was among his greatest sources of pride.”
Savage said, “He was an outstanding journalist and publisher. It was a privilege to follow him. His work made my job a lot easier. His contributions to the community, his vision and his role in starting A Storybook Christmas say a lot about him. He will be missed professionally and personally.”
Services are pending at Grace Gardens Funeral Home. The Preddys have a son, a daughter and four grandchildren.
Their son, Lewis Preddy, recently returned to active duty as a commander in the Naval Reserve after serving as an executive with a television station in Jacksonville, Fla.
Their married daughter, Dr. Tiffany Preddy, is an Austin veterinarian.