Clovis pioneer journalist May Case remembered

Though small in stature, pioneer journalist May Case was the most visible, informed woman in Clovis from 1919 to 1967. CONTRIBUTED BY CLOVIS MUSEUM

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, Let’s Talk Clovis welcomed Bob Wood to speak at its monthly forum. The great-grandson of May Case, as the founder of the Clovis Independent was commonly known, captivated the audience with early memories of his ancestor.

“She was one hell of a woman, never knew a stranger,” said Wood. “She loved people. ‘Share with other people your experiences,’ she would say. ‘They may learn something.”’

Several members of the audience also had stories of their interactions with May. She was remembered not only for her short stature and slight frame (she was under 4-foot-10 and weighed less than 90 pounds), her trademark hat, square heeled shoes, notepad and the pencil behind her ear, but also for her boundless curiosity, love of life and adventuresome nature. By being honest and sincere, she fostered trust with those who met her.

Her accomplishments were especially notable not by just what she did, but the period of time in which she did them. While women were expected to remain in the home, she was on alert for the next adventure, walking up and down Clovis streets looking for stories or visiting the police station asking for news. She was as interested in community activities as well as hard news stories and felt it was important to be aware of what is happening around you.

“She was a nice lady,” remembers one guest. “People wanted to say it right, if it was going to be in the paper.”

Married at 15 and with four children to raise, her career in the news business spanned 75 years, for which she was nationally honored in 1964 as the oldest active newspaper woman in the world. It was not unusual for her to write six articles a day for several different newspapers and wire services. During her career, she interviewed historical figures such as Apache chief Geronimo, Comanche chief Quanah Parker, Belle Star and the Daltons, among others.

May and her husband, Spurgeon, founded the Clovis Independent in 1919. Previously, they had either owned or worked on several other newspapers or wire services in Oklahoma, Colorado and California. They sold the Independent in 1939; however, May remained a reporter with the paper until her death in 1967 at the age of 93.

“Momma May, as I called her, was born in Texas and came through some hard times,” said Wood. “Can you imagine, going to Oklahoma in a covered wagon, trying to cook?

“She knew the Indians, had pow wows with them and was adopted into several tribes. They trusted her. She was upset with the way they were treated.”

Wood had fond memories of her house, where his cradle was a dresser drawer.

“It was another world at her house, inside and out. Outside was like a magical forest, dark with a lot of shrubs,” he said. “She had an amazing basement with all kinds of Native American artifacts with magical patterns, cradleboards … things that wake you up to the fact there are other worlds. I thought her tales were just tall tales, but they were real tales.

“She lived to be quite wise and told me: ‘Ask. Listen. People will tell you the darndest things.'”