Celebrating the life of Hollis A. Biddle
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Hollis A. Biddle, veteran newspaper sports writer, passed away March 13, 2017, after a three month illness. He was 81. Visitation will be 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, March 17, at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey. Graveside service will be at 1 p.m., Saturday, March 18, at Friedens Cemetery, FM 1860 (Riesel). A memorial service will be 2:30 p.m., Saturday, March 18, at Lakewood Christian Church with Rev. Richard Roland officiating. A reception will follow.
Hollis was born in Waco June 10, 1935, to Mamie Jean Wallace and Henry Biddle. He was reared by his beloved grandmother, Ocie Wallace. One of the first apartments he lived in happened to be in an old antebellum home that is prized today as Waco's Earle-Harrison House. As a youth, he dreamed of a career involving sports while editing the Waco High "Daisy Chain" and working two part-time jobs, one as an HEB sacker, another as a Copy Boy at the Waco Tribune-Herald.
In those days, copy boys pulled long sheets of news items from Associated Press and United Press International wire machines and took them to appropriate editors in the news room. One day as he stood waiting for an AP article to finish printing, newspaper owner Harlan Fentress quietly appeared behind him and called his name. He told Hollis that he had been watching his work ethic and had decided to grant him the very first Fentress Foundation scholarship to Baylor.
From that moment on, Hollis felt he should work hard to deserve this kindness and continued to advance at the newspaper for 55 years, before retiring in 2007. Early on he caught the eye of newly named Sports Editor Dave Campbell, who moved him into the Sports Department. The two became a great sports news team and became best friends outside the office.
At the time, the local sports department covered 12 surrounding counties, meaning dozens of medium-sized and tiny towns and their teams were included. Hollis saw the strong support that small communities gave their teams, especially in football, and suggested not only covering the weekly games but also doing extra stories each week on the supporters, such as marching bands, majorettes, and cheer leaders, plus the merchants who closed businesses early on Friday afternoon so that they and their employees could attend the games to support the teams.
Such coverage paid off handsomely for the Trib, increasing circulation numbers in all 12 counties. Hollis not only did the interviews and wrote the resulting stories, but he also learned to take pictures to accompany the features which ran Thursdays before the Friday games. His name, his big Speed Graphic camera and his flat-top haircut became known throughout Central Texas.
Since Little League games attracted so many families, Hollis took countless photographs of teams throughout the area, once again building readership. He was thrilled to follow the local Little League team all the way to a national championship in 1965.
He worked his way up to Assistant Sports Editor and was privileged to cover and attend some of the nation's premier sporting events from the Final Four, to major college football games across the nation, to new sport arenas, etc.
In 1963, he married the former Ethel Breitkreutz of Riesel. Ethel, a long-time employee of the local Certainteed office, wholeheartedly supported his sports coverage career. He was privileged to work under such publishers as Harlan Fentress, Pat Taggart, and Lynwood Armstrong of the Fentress chain, plus Randy Preddy and Dan Savage of the Cox Enterprises newspaper chain.
As if they were not busy enough at the Trib, Dave decided he wanted to start a magazine about Texas's most popular sport. So he tapped Hollis to help him begin Texas Football. For decades, Hollis helped plan each issue, came up with unusual presentation ideas, etc.
Hollis had always been in charge of the Trib's annual selection of the Super CenTex football team and helped plan the anniversary banquet marking 50 years of Super CenTex teams. That year a newspaper scholarship was established and named the Campbell-Biddle Scholarship in honor of Hollis and his boss. This year's scholarship winner is being selected now.
To serve the Baylor alums who had begun supporting Grant Teaff's team so heavily, Dave and Hollis spent all day Sunday and into the night following each Baylor football game preparing The Baylor Insider for fans on every segment of that week's game that was not covered anywhere else. That project continued for decades.
In 1983, during a revamping of the Tribune-Herald staff, Hollis moved to the Marketing Department and took over duties such as promotion, advertising and major special sections. The most successful was Industry in Review which was published annually for decades. Hollis contacted each manufacturer or business, interviewed a top person, wrote stories and took all the photos, which numbered in the hundreds annually.
Between his active career with sports-related people and his later association with business leaders, few people in McLennan County did not meet Hollis Biddle. Everywhere he went, people came up to tell him, "You covered my bases-loaded home run when I was in high school and I'll never forget it!" or "You helped us get the word out to Central Texas about what our business does and we still appreciate that." Whenever people saw him, they thought of the Tribune-Herald and Hollis felt he was repaying the early owners who took an interest in a young copy boy.
Hundreds of friends attended the big retirement party given for him by the Tribune Herald at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He was so proud that his 55 years is the longest tenure in the local paper's history. In retirement, he enjoyed traveling to Las Vegas and far corners of the world with Ethel, and resumed his hobbies of collecting stamps and coins, developing still more friends along the way.
Hollis was preceded in death by his parents; his grandmother; and his daughter, Anjanette.
He is survived by his wife, Ethel; his son, Robert; daughter-in-law, Shannon, and grandchildren, Aeron and Kyle Biddle, all of Hutto; son-in-law, Charles Piscacek, and step-grandchildren, Brianna and Rachel Piscacek, all of Waco.
Pallbearers will be Kyle Biddle, Charlie Piscacek, Lester Zedd, Keith Randall, John McLain, and David Casstevens. Honorary pallbearers will be the 1965 Little League Championship Team, Dave Campbell, Dutch Schroeder, James Berryhill, James Miller, Charles Vestal, Harold McCain, and Mike Adams.
Memorials may be made to Lakewood Christian Church, 6509 Bosque Boulevard, 76710, or a favorite charity. The family invites you to leave a message or memory on our “Tribute Wall” at www.WHBfamily.com.
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1787 E Lake Creek Rd
Riesel, TX 76682
6509 Bosque Blvd.
Waco, TX 76710
1787 E Lake Creek Rd
Riesel, TX 76682