The Denver Press Club bestowed its highest honor upon Garrett Ray, the Littleton Independent’s former owner and editor, during an evening ceremony on Sept. 20.
The club, the oldest of its kind in the United States, inducted Ray into its Hall of Fame, where he joins the likes of Gene Amole, Fred Brown, Ed Stein, Paula Woodard, Dick Kreck, Jean Otto, Bertha Lynn and Starr Yelland, to name just a few.
“More than ever, we need our community newspapers, with people like Garrett who are dedicated to their craft and to giving back to their communities,” Eric Brown, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s spokesman and a former student of Ray’s at Colorado State University, said upon introducing Ray to the audience. “He cares about people, he cares about his family, he cares about his friends and, most of all, he cares about doing it right.”
Upon accepting the honor, Ray credited his mother, an editor, for the ink running through his blood. He recalled literally cranking out a neighborhood newsletter at the age of 11, on a hand-crank mimeograph machine.
“Over the next half-century, I grudgingly adapted to each new technology,” he said, even to what he calls the “unimaginable new world of digital technology.”
Ray pursued two careers in journalism, both of which the press club calls remarkable. After leaving the Independent, he went on to teach countless young, aspiring journalists like Brown at CSU subjects such as media ethics, reporting, editing and management.
“The world needs real journalists still, men and women with courage and brains and truth,” he told his fellow members of the Fourth Estate.
Today, he says, he’s launching his third career from his home at Wind Crest, a senior-living community in Highlands Ranch. He’s helping his neighbors learn to write their own life stories.
“There are so many rich tales of courage, talent and wisdom,” he said.
Although Ray is an iconic figure in Littleton, he missed what is perhaps the city’s most iconic story. In 1965, he was in Washington, D.C., on a fellowship.
“My wife called and said, ‘Turn on the TV. Littleton is washing down the river,’ he recalls. “That was the big story I never got to cover, because I was writing press releases for the senator.”
That flood launched the career of another of the evening’s inductees, Gary Gerhardt, who spent 40 years at the Rocky Mountain News.
“It was cool to be in the newsroom on the day of that flood,” said Kevin Flynn, who worked many of those years with Gerhardt.
Brown reminded everyone of the unprecedented flooding that Colorado was trying to recover from on the night of the Press Club gathering, and the armies of local journalists weathering the storm.
“With stories of friends helping friends, neighbors helping neighbors, it’s fitting to honor somebody who is so entrenched in community journalism,” he said.
Other 2013 inductees include Michael Balfe Howard, Joseph S. Sinisi, Pocky Marranzino Sr. and poet Eugene Field.
The Denver Press Club is the oldest press club in the United States. Local journalists began meeting in 1867 and incorporated in 1877, a year after Colorado became the 38th state.
“Ardent political and professional rivals in print, the editors still found time to tap into the barrel of ‘Taos Lightning,’ discuss events of the day and play a little poker,” according to the club’s website.