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Van Allen Tyson

Journalist, teacherrooted in state dies by Neal Earley | March 1, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

Van Allen Tyson, journalist, publisher, and a mentor to a generation of Arkansas reporters, died Saturday in Atkins at the age of 83.

A journalism-lifer born into the industry, Tyson was an "old-school reporter," who didn't care for sensationalism but also wasn't shy about sparking a debate among his readers with a pointed column, family members said.

Tyson, who spent most of his life in Atkins, dedicated his career to community journalism and teaching journalism, they said.

Born in nearby Morrilton, Tyson spent most of his life in Atkins, growing up in the news business, starting out as a printer's devil at his family's newspaper, the Atkins Chronicle, where his grandfather Ardis Tyson was the publisher.

"He just grew up with it in his blood," said Tyson's daughter, Gail Murdoch. "We used to say everybody in our family had ink in our blood."

After graduating from Arkansas Tech University, Tyson took over as publisher of the Atkins Chronicle but sold the paper to take a newspaper job in Iowa. After a few years in Des Moines, Tyson returned to Arkansas, accepting a position at the Arkansas Democrat, where he covered the state legislature and worked as an editorial writer.

In 1974, Tyson accepted a job to teach journalism at his alma mater, eventually becoming the head of the Speech, Theatre and Journalism Department at Arkansas Tech.

Curious by nature, teaching, like reporting, came naturally to Tyson, as he loved learning new things and explaining them to whoever would listen.

At Arkansas Tech, Tyson found another one of his callings, becoming a mentor to students while they were in school and long after.

"He was passionate about the journalism itself, but I feel like with his teaching he was really more passionate about bringing up new journalists," Murdoch said. "I think that was really what he really loved most, was helping them learn the trade and seeing their successes. He would really take a lot of joy in their success."

In 1992, Tyson returned to publishing, buying back the Atkins Chronicle. Murdoch joined him after graduating from college and eventually became the paper's managing editor.

In the pages of his weekly newspaper in conservative Atkins, Tyson loved sparking debate with his observational and occasionally politically-liberal column, the Gum Log.

"He loved the newspaper and Atkins itself," his wife, Virginia Tyson, said.

Tyson is survived by his wife, daughters Gail Murdoch and Emory Molitor, three granddaughters and two great-granddaughters.

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