Bridge City Chamber Banquet Tuesday
Roy Dunn often went to bed hungry as a child during the Great Depression in rural south Louisiana. Passing trains would shake the little shack where he lived with his single mother, and he could see the lights of the trains through the cracks in the walls.
He became prosperous as an adult by publishing community-oriented, weekly newspapers. And he shared his prosperity, his time and space in his papers to help others. Most of the time, his donations and assistance came without announcements.
This year, the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce is honoring Dunn with the prestigious “Citizen of the Year” award.
“I’m humbled and deeply grateful to be honored with the Citizen of the Year award presented by the Chamber of Commerce of Bridge City, the place that has been our home for over 50 years,” he said. “We raised our family here and are proud of the part we played in the development of the community and school system.”
Dunn will be featured at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. at the Bridge City community Center off West Roundbunch Road, though he is reluctantly accepting the attention.
“I would rather be the bride’s maid than have the spotlight on me,” he said. “I prefer to recognize the accomplishments of others, past and present, who have made Bridge City such a great place. I dedicate this award to the memory of those community-minded people who have gone before us.”
The banquet will be “a taste of” style featuring foods from various restaurants, stores and shops. Tickets are $25 in advance until Jan. 18 at the Chamber office on West Roundbunch Road. Tickets at the door are $30. For more information, contact 735-5671.
When he first moved to town, Mr. Dunn was one of a group that established and built the first Little League baseball fields and facilities off Sunset Street. He also coached for several years.
He and his partners made the property available for the Bridge City Community Center and the youth baseball and football fields surrounding it. In addition, Mr. Dunn helped raise money for the community center.
He is a charter member and past president of the Bridge City Rotary Club. Also, he is a lifetime member and Paul Harris Fellow recipient with Rotary.
He was a longtime member and past president of the now-disbanded Orange Evening Optimist Club, with which he had 14 years of perfect attendance.
Gov. Ann Richards appointed him to serve on the Sabine Pilots Commission.
Through the years he has been honored numerous times for his contributions to the community. The awards include Optimist Presidential Citation, “Boy’s Worker of the Year” from Optimist International, and the Liberty Bell Award from the Orange County Bar Association.
He has also been honored as “Business Person of the Year” by a coalition of Southeast Texas Chambers of Commerce. The Bridge City Chamber nominated him for the award.
Doug Harrington, owner of Harrington’s Pharmacy in Bridge City, met Dunn some 40 years ago, when Bridge City “was just a small town” and unincorporated.
“I think it’s the best decision they could have made,” Harrington said about the Chamber honor for Dunn. “He’s a swell guy.”
Harrington said Dunn has helped the city and contributed to the community in many ways, usually behind-the-scenes, “where his name isn’t mentioned.”
Longtime Orange lawyer Jim Sharon Bearden first met Dunn at the Orange County Courthouse in 1961, when Bearden was still in law school.
“He often uses in his column ‘he’s one to ride the range with,’ and that describes him,” Bearden said.
One of Dunn’s distinguishing characteristics, Bearden said, is his honesty.
“His word is his bond,” the lawyer said. “If he tells you that the sun is going to rise in the west, you better start looking to the west.”
Joe Chenella, assistant superintendent of the Bridge City School District, said Dunn and his Record newspapers have always given good publicity to the schools, the students and the sports.
He said the newspapers helped with publicity about the last bond election, which built the new high school, and kept the voters informed about the issues.
Dunn grew up poor in a small town in Louisiana during the Great Depression, raised by his single mother and grandmother. After moving to Orange County, he eventually started a community-oriented weekly newspaper, The Opportunity Valley News. He later bought the Triangle Press, a commercial printing plant. After selling the business to a national corporation in 1981, he became a real estate investor and businessman.
In 1990, the community newspaper business called him back and he acquired The Record Newspapers. He is now publisher of The Penny Record, which covers the Bridge City-Orangefield area, and The County Record, which includes all of Orange County.
As a writer, he has won several Southeast Texas Press Club awards for his “Down Life’s Highway” column about his boyhood, his travels and the people he has known. His columns have told of the hardships he endured as a boy, with the uplifting messages of family love and blessings from God, even when times are bad.
He and his wife, Phyllis, have been married 53 years and have three children, Mark, Allen and Karen. Their five grandchildren are Amber, Jenna, Garrett, Sean and Collin. They also have two step-grandchildren, Jason and Chris Menard. The couple has one great-grandchild, Nate, and a great-granddaughter “on the way.”