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People We’ll Miss—2014

Robert Heard, 84

April 10, 1930–April 15, 2014

Lyndon B. Johnson could not hide from Robert Heard, even when the president tried sneaking away to his ranch in Stonewall. Heard, a seasoned AP reporter, knew his way around the Hill Country, rendering LBJ’s attempt to evade him hopeless. As the story goes, Heard’s relentless pursuits of Johnson earned him a code name among Johnson’s Secret Servicemen: “Ass-One.” When Tom Heard, Robert’s son, was asked if there was ever an Ass-Two or Ass-Three whom he was in cahoots with, he said, “I don’t know. But if there was an Ass-Two and -Three, then it seems Dad clearly took the prize.”

Heard lived this theme of doggedness individualism, from the small actions—refusing to shave his three-inch beard in the seventies—to the consequential ones—during the UT Tower shooting in 1966, Heard ran toward the scene, sustaining a bullet wound while covering the massacre for the AP. (The AP file photo to the left, taken August 3, 1966, is a famous image of Heard recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered while he was covering the Tower shooting.) Among a family of staunch Republicans, he remained a liberal. At one point, the AP offered him a position as an investigative reporter in Washington, D.C., but Heard turned it down. “He stayed here because he loved Texas and Austin and didn’t want to move to the Northeast,” said Betsy Heard, Robert’s wife.

While Heard’s writing career was founded in hard news, he often wrote short stories under the pen name Sam Honey (a tip of the hat to Mark Twain, whom he greatly admired). Throughout his life, he published books through Honey Hill Publishing, a company he started. And though he was the son of a Baptist preacher and a proclaimed atheist, he wrote a book about Mary Magdalene, depicting her as the founder of Christianity.

“Everybody cares to a certain extent what people think of people, but something in him kept him from caring enough to change for people,” Tom said. “He would never change for anyone.” –Kelsey Davis 

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