HARLINGEN — Family and friends Thursday remembered former Valley Morning Star Editor Jerry Deal as a hard-edged newsman and demanding boss who helped sharpen the newspaper and sway city politics.
Deal died Thursday at South David Medical Center in Austin about two weeks after suffering a stroke.
He was 86.
Born in Broken Bow, Nebraska, Deal was raised in Lincoln, where he began his newspaper career in high school as a sports reporter for the Lincoln Journal.
During the Korean War, he served on active and inactive duty with the Naval Air Corps.
An award-winning journalist who started his career in 1955, Deal characterized the stereotypical hard-nosed newsman who learned the trade in the days of hot type and manual typewriters.
“He was a very good guy,” Darla Deal, his daughter-in-law, said yesterday. “He was very passionate about what he did. He loved to tell stories. He was the best.”
Since 1959, Deal worked in South Texas journalism, covering many of the region’s biggest stories as an investigative reporter and editor.
By 1960, he was working as a reporter for the Valley Morning Star.
Between 1961-1964 and 1969-1981, Deal worked for the San Antonio Express-News, where he covered police and city hall before working as an investigative reporter and night city editor.
“That was probably the most colorful time of my career — investigative reporting,” Deal said before retiring from the Star in 2001.
For a story he wrote about a statewide prostitution ring that operated under police protection, a madam put a contract on his life, he said.
“It was only for $10,000, so it wasn’t too important,” Deal said with a chuckle in 2001. “We got wind of it through a Houston snitch and she called it off.”
In June 1997, Deal became the Star’s editor, guiding the newspaper to several awards.
In 2001, he retired before launching the Los Fresnos Leader, a weekly newspaper that spawned his website MyLeaderNews.com.
Across the Valley, Deal was known for his Sunday column, The Real Deal, in which his blunt criticism helped push for open city government.