A sad loss of newspaper history

I spotted a vaguely familiar name in the Star-Advertiser “death notices” on Sunday, Rodney Burl Yarberry.

It was short and to the point, and explained why the name was familiar. Yarberry, who died in Hilo at age 92, once served as superintendent of education.

This is one of those moments that I mourn the loss of the old newspaper archives. When David Black bought the Star-Bulletin in 2001, he had an option to copy the archives, controlled by Gannett’s Honolulu Advertiser. The option was never exercised. Then, when Black later bought the Advertiser from Gannett in 2010, the archive was not included in the deal.

I don’t know what ever happened to that century worth of clipping files carefully indexed by name, but at times like this they are sorely missed.

Back when the archives were accessible, you might have expected an editor to flag Yarberry’s death and assign someone to pull the clips on him for an obituary.

Now, if you’re lucky, Google will turn up something interesting. In this case, we’re lucky.

Yarberry served as superintendent of education for 4 years beginning in 1962, later moving to Kamehameha and then serving as commission of education for the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands.

This is from an abstract of a 1991 interview with Yarberry by Warren Nishimoto, now director of the University of Hawaii’s Center for Oral History.

R. Burl Yarberry was born in 1920 in Pueblo, Colorado. He attended public schools in Pueblo and graduated from high school in 1938. After a year attending the Colorado School of Mines, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in the Pacific during World War II. Following his discharge, he earned a BA in English from Western State College of Colorado and an MA in American and English literature from the University of Arizona. Between 1950 and 1954, Yarberry was teacher and principal at Ouray High School in Colorado. In 1956, Yarberry received a PhD in English from the University of New Mexico. Shortly thereafter, he arrived in Hawai’i as an English instructor at Hawai’i Vocational School, today known as University of Hawai’i at Hilo. He soon became the college’s director, a position equivalent to chancellor today. In 1962, at the age of forty-one, Yarberry was selected by the state Board of Education to be superintendent of schools. After a four-year tenure as state superintendent, he became coordinator of secondary education and boys’ school principal at the Kamehameha Schools. Two years later, he was named commissioner of education for the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands [TTPI]. Beginning in 1972, Yarberry was involved in various federal and private projects focusing on educational reform. This article presents a narrative on Yarberry’s early life in Colorado, education, years as head of UH-Hilo, and tenure as state superintendent of schools.

Fascinating career for sure, and an opportunity for a fascinating obit. But the lack of those clipping files makes opportunities like this much harder to take advantage of.

13 responses to “A sad loss of newspaper history

  1. Yarberry should be seen as a giant in Hilo where he was once sent to oversee he shutdown of branch UH campus in Hilo.

    Instead he lit a fire from which UH-Hilo evolved to a top small college (along with help from Dan Inouye and the superb leadership of retired chancellor Rose Tseng).

    How soon we forget!.

    Tribune-Herald published a throw-away, agate obit, too, befitting its knowledge of who it is that dies.

    The did not forget. They never knew!

  2. If they found retaining the archive burdensome, they at least could have donated it to the university or state library, or the Hawaiian Historical Society.

  3. Might check the local library anyway. When I was in school (a long freakin’ time ago), libraries had newspapers on microfiche. Admittedly, I have no idea if that was only in my locale @ the time (not Hawaii).

  4. Much of the archives at THA were scanned and in the possession now at the SA. The project cost nearly 100k to do so it wasn’t a small project. As I understand it about 80 to 90 percent was scanned.

    • I know that a good deal of the photo archive was scanned as a result of initiative by photo editors. I would be quite surprised if clip files were also scanned at the same time.

  5. I know my local library has the Advertiser, Star-Bulletin, and Hawaii Tribune-Herald, among other newspapers, on microfilm.

    If the Advertiser archives were mostly scanned, it’s good to know.

  6. The clippings file is available at Hamilton library at UH Manoa on microfiche. The library created an online index to the clippings file: http://www.sinclair.hawaii.edu/HPFiche/. In April 2011 the library was told that

    “Everything (photos, negatives, fiche, clippings files) was given to the State Archives. The Archives will keep the photos and negatives. The State Library will keep the fiche and clippings files. 1,2000 boxes were received – When the Archives is finished, then the State Library will open their boxes. Prior to the transfer the Star Advertiser scanned everything for the staff’s use.”

  7. I was told by the newspaper librarians that shortly after the archive copying deadline had passed, the Star-Bulletin archives were destroyed, primarily clippings andy microfiche. What was left were Advertiser and HNA files. I hope I was wrongly informed.
    The major library branches have indexes of all stories that appeared in both newspapers up to about the time the newspapers started appearing online.

    Early editions — up to the early ’20s — can be searched in the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America Project: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

    Also, during the martial-law period 1941-1944, the FBI weekly collected the papers’ clipping files. Apparently being able to make connections in the daily news was considered a security risk.

  8. You might be right Ian, might have just been the photo archives but even that was nearly 100k to scan. I imagine it was cost prohibitive to scan everything if just the pics cost that much to do.

  9. I would have preferred Hanabusa because she is a seasoned legislator. Schatz did not impress me as a state rep. because he was always looking to “moving up” and running for higher office. As a result, he was unable to have any legislation passed. He now becomes one of about 80 senators who are white men, at a time when our nation’s demographics are changing and women and minorities are increasing in numbers. Hawaii could have done.

  10. Bishop Museum closed their archive to the public and now the only way to view them is by making an appointment and waiting for over a month.

    UH Manoa also recently dismantled and gave away their Hawaiian Archeology Lab Archive.

  11. Good luck trying to acess info. at the State Archives if you hold down a job. They are closed Saturday and Sunday and open 9-4 Monday- Friday.

    After 3:45 they won’t let you check out anything.
    Would be nice if they made more available online or transferred more things to the public libraries which have better hours.

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