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Lyell Clay, Fran Hollendonner named to WV Press Association Hall of Fame

By From staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Newspaper publishers Lyell Clay and Fran Hollendonner, both prominent figures in the West Virginia newspaper industry through the 1980s, have been elected to the West Virginia Press Association's Hall of Fame.

The two men, both deceased, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Aug. 8 to open the press association's annual convention at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling.

Election to the Hall of Fame signifies the individual had an "outstanding" career with a West Virginia newspaper, or was a native West Virginian who had an outstanding journalism career outside the state. Candidates become eligible five years after their death. 

Both Clay and Hollendonner are being recognized for outstanding careers in West Virginia, though both men had influence outside of the state.

Today, many know Lyell Clay, 1923-2007, as a philanthropist, but before those efforts, he was publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail.

He joined the paper in 1956. Soon after, the then-afternoon newspaper formed a joint operation with the morning newspaper, The Charleston Gazette. Heading the Daily Mail operation, he formed Clay Communications Inc., which eventually expanded to four television stations in three states and four newspapers in West Virginia and North Carolina. Clay also acquired two radio stations in Charlottesville, Va.

In 1987, when Clay Communications was sold, Lyell and his brother, Buckner Clay, established the Clay Foundation Inc. It has supported many projects since its formation, most notably the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences.

Clay served as board member and president of the West Virginia Press Association and on the board of the American Newspaper Publishers Association.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Patricia, and is survived by his children, Whitney Clay Diller, Ashton deLashmet Clay, Leslie Clay, and Courtney Clay Peraza. His grandchildren are Nathan Clay Diller, Madeline Grace Diller, Kai Ming Agsten, and Ella Proffitt Agsten. He also has one step-grandson, Benjamin Agsten, and three sons-in-law, Brian Diller, Carl Agsten Jr. and Jesus Peraza.

Fran Hollendonner, 1927-2008, served as publisher of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel from 1975 through 1992, but also was a leader in the Parkersburg community and served as mentor to journalists. Following his retirement, Hollendonner served as a newspaper consultant.

Hollendonner, who also worked as editor of The Intelligencer in Wheeling and newspapers in Beaver County, Pa., and Schenectady, N.Y., was secretary-treasurer and board member of West Virginia Press Association.

In 2001, the association honored Hollendonner with the Adam R. Kelly Award as the state's premier journalist. 

Hollendonner is survived by his wife Carolyn, son Reed and wife Arlene, daughter Susan H. Stewart and husband Bill, two grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and one great-step-grandchild.

Plaques in honor of both men will be prepared and mounted in the Hall of Fame room, maintained at the P.I. Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University.


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