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Clay, Hollendonner honored by newspaper industry

Lyell B. Clay
Lyell B. Clay

CHARLESTON — Newspaper publishers Lyell Clay and Fran Hollendonner, both prominent figures in the West Virginia newspaper industry through the 1980s, have been elected to the West Virginia Press Association’s Hall of Fame.

The two men, both deceased, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the WVPA’s annual convention, Aug. 8-10 at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling. The Hall of Fame induction is part of the President’s Reception on Aug. 8. The event serves as the opening for the three-day gather of the state’s newspaper industry.

Election to the Hall of Fame signifies the individual had an “outstanding” career with a West Virginia newspaper, weekly or daily, or was a native West Virginian who had an outstanding journalism career outside West Virginia. The election committee looks at lifetime achievement and influence. Candidates become eligible five years after their death.

Both Clay and Hollendonner are being recognized for outstanding careers in West Virginia, though both men had influence outside of the state.

The WVPA Hall of Fame was established in 1935 largely through the efforts of Gilbert Miller of the Morgantown Dominion Post, who was a leader in the West Virginia Press Council that preceded the WVPA, and Dr. P. I. Reed, head of the department of Journalism at West Virginia University. WVU’s school of journalism is now named in Reed’s honor.

WVPA Hall of Fame Committee includes Maryanne Reed, committee chair and dean of the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism; Ogden Nutting of Ogden Newspapers; Frank Wood of The Register-Herald of Beckley; Warren Buzzerd of The Morgan Messenger; Phoebe Heishman of the Moorefield Examiner; and Don Smith, executive director of the WVPA .

Today, many know Lyell Clay, 1923-2007, as a philanthropist, but prior to the Clay Foundation’s efforts supporting many worthy projects including the Clay Center in Charleston, he was publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail

In 1956 Clay joined the Charleston Daily Mail. Soon after the then afternoon newspaper formed a joint operation with the morning newspaper, The Charleston Gazette. Heading the Daily Mail operation, he formed Clay Communications, Inc.

Clay Communications eventually expanded to four television stations in three states and four newspapers in West Virginia and North Carolina. Clay also acquired two radio stations in Charlottesville, Va.

In 1987, when Clay Communications, Inc. was sold, Lyell and his brother, Buckner Clay, established the Clay Foundation, Inc. The Foundation has supported many projects since its formation in 1987, including the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences – West Virginia, Inc., a state-of-the-art museum and arts center in Charleston.

Clay served as board member and president of the WVPA and on the board of the American Newspaper Publishers Association.

Fran Hollendonner
Fran Hollendonner

Fran Hollendonner, 1927-2008, served as publisher of the The Parkersburg News and Sentinel from 1975 through 1992, but he also was a leader in the Parkersburg community and served as mentor to journalists through his association with the WVPA and Ogden Newspapers. Following his retirement, Hollendonner served as a consultant for newspapers.

Hollendonner, who also worked as editor of The Intelligencer in Wheeling and newspapers in Beaver County, Pa., and Schenectady, N.Y., was secretary-treasurer and board member of West Virginia Press Association.

In 2001, the WVPA honored Hollendonner with the Adam R. Kelly Award as the state’s premier journalist for his outstanding service to the newspaper industry, the WVPA and his community.

Hollendonner had a strong commitment to the community, serving on several Parkersburg area boards of directors and on the Parkersburg Rotary Club Board of Governors. Professionally, he was also a member of the American Newspaper Publishers Association and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. He served as president of the Pennsylvania Society of Newspaper Editors and was a member of the New York State Society of Newspaper Editors.

The WVPA will honor both men at its upcoming convention and plaques will be prepared and mounted in the Hall of Fame room maintained at the P.I. Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University.

Clay was preceded in death by his wife, Patricia, and is survived by his children, Whitney Clay Diller, Ashton deLashmet Clay, Leslie Clay, and Courtney Clay Peraza. His grandchildren are Nathan Clay Diller, Madeline Grace Diller, Kai Ming Agsten, and Ella Proffitt Agsten. He also has one step-grandson, Benjamin Agsten and three sons-in-law Brian Diller, Carl Agsten, Jr. and Jesus Peraza.

Hollendonner is survived by his wife Carolyn, son Reed and wife Arlene, daughter Susan H. Stewart and husband Bill, two grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and one great-step-grandchild.

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