Founder of UT Journalism Department Dies

KNOXVILLE – The man credited with founding the University of Tennessee journalism department has died in Wichita, Kansas.

Willis Carleton Tucker, who taught journalism from 1947 until he retired in 1974, was 94.

Willis C. Tucker

Before coming to UT in 1947, Tucker taught at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., and at the University of Kentucky, where he was an associate professor and acting head of journalism.

His professional experience included reporting and editing stints with the Beckley, W. Va. Evening Post, the Lexington Herald-Leader and WGAR in Cleveland, Ohio.

Tucker was a 1930 graduate of West Virginia Tech in English and journalism, and had a master’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University. He had pursued additional graduate studies at Ohio State and Southern Cal.

Dr. Kelly Leiter, retired dean of the College of Communications, remembered Tucker as a man whose quiet, unassuming manner hid a sharp intelligence.

“Willis was a compulsive editor,” Leiter said. “When you sent him a memo or a note, he would mark it up and send it back to you.”

Leiter credited him with an instrumental role in developing the UT/Tennessee Press Association contests that still honor excellence in state journalism. He also managed to get the department accredited in 1955, at a time when Leiter said it was run on a shoestring.