MARTHA ANN WILLIAMS WALLS, 87, died peacefully at her home Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, of natural causes.
Mrs. Walls was a businesswoman, a loving mother, a valued friend and a great wit and storyteller. She was the widow of newspaper entrepreneur B. Carmage Walls and was chairman of the board of Southern Newspapers, Inc. of Houston. The company operates 14 newspapers, 11 in Texas and three in Alabama.
Carmage Walls founded the company, and he and Mrs. Walls managed it together for for more than 60 years. It will continue operations under the leadership of the couple’s daughter, Lissa Walls, who is the company’s chief executive officer.
Mrs. Walls was born April 21, 1927, in Gadsden, Ala. Her parents were Inez and Aubrey (Pick) Williams.
Mrs. Walls was valedictorian of her class at Gadsden High School, and she began her newspaper career as assistant to the publisher of The Gadsden Times at the age of 20. At her death, she had worked in the newspaper business for 67 years, from the age of melted lead type to the Internet age.
Martha Ann Williams and Carmage Walls married on Jan. 2, 1954. They were partners in life and in business. They traveled the world together, and Mrs. Walls earned her pilot’s license in the early 1960s. Mr. and Mrs. Walls often explored newspaper markets in which they had an interest from the pilot and co-pilot’s seat of their airplane.
Though neither attended college, Mr. and Mrs. Walls established journalism scholarship funds at Baylor University, Trinity University, the University of Alabama and the University of Texas. They also established the Carmage and Martha Ann Walls Distinguished Chair of Tropical Diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
For a number of years, Mrs. Walls also served on the board of Jefferson Pilot Insurance Co., later purchased by Chubb Insurance.
She was preceded in death by her husband; by a daughter, Jean Walls Garcich; a son, Mark Thomas Walls; step-son, Carmage Lee Walls Sr.; and three grandsons, Mark Thomas Walls Jr., Benson Dunn Walls and Jerry Anthony Garcich.
Mrs. Walls is survived by her son, Byrd Cooper Walls of Vancouver, B.C., and his wife, Carol; daughter, Lissa Walls of Houston; daughter-in-law, Yvonne Walls of Birmingham; daughter-in-law, Nell Dunn Walls of Lanett, Ala.; grand-daughters Sarah Elizabeth Malinak and husband, Joseph, of Asheville, N.C., and Dinah Garcich Bilkis and husband, Dave, of Lake Worth, Fla., and Paige Garcich of Phenix City, Ala; grandsons, Carmage Lee Walls, Jr. and wife, Jeanne, of Birmingham and Joseph Walls and partner, Greg Fritzler of Lanett, Ala.; 12 great grand-children and two great-great grandchildren.
The family wishes to express its gratitude to Mrs. Walls’ beloved and cherished assistant, Jason Keever.
Family members also offer thanks to caregivers: Wanda Jones, Irish Lashley, Brenda Montgomery, Edna Stringfellow, Pauline Silmon-Seymour, Jacqueline Williams, Karen Martin, Enriquita Monge and George Wells.