Walter Hussman, Jr. has made a name for himself in the journalism field in his 74 years. As a third-generation newspaper and publishing maven, he's the chief executive of WEHCO Media, Inc.
As the owner of multiple newspapers, Hussman has made significant donations to advance the field of journalism. In 2019, his family’s $25 million donation to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill garnered attention as the largest-ever single gift received by the school.
What does Walter Hussman, Jr. do?
Hussman, Jr. has been in the journalism business for his entire career. Clyde Palmer, his grandfather, purchased the first family newspaper in 1909 and acquired more newspapers over the coming decades. Hussman, Sr. worked within the family’s media empire until 1981 and branched into radio and TV broadcasting.
Hussman, Jr. worked within the family business as young as age 10. He returned to the family business after his education and a period of time working for Forbes magazine. By age 27, he was the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat. In 1981, he took over WEHCO Media. The corporation now owns media outlets in six states.
In May 2020, Hussman’s company WEHCO, Inc. received $12.3 million in PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration. At the time, Hussman stated that each of WEHCO’s 21 companies qualified separately to receive PPP loans.
Walter Hussman’s net worth
The renowned news publisher’s personal net worth isn’t publicly known. In 2001, a weekly publication called Arkansas Business estimated Hussman to be worth about $890 million, according to the American Journalism Review, a figure which has likely changed in the past two decades.
The Hussman family established two endowed professorships at Carolina, one in the journalism school and another in the School of Education. In 2019, they made a $25 million donation to the university.
Hussman’s influence over tenure for Hannah-Jones
Hussman played a role in the fraught process over the appointment of Nikole Hannah-Jones to an endowed professorship at UNC-Chapel Hill. Hannah-Jones, the creator of the 1619 Project, wasn't offered tenure along with the position, unlike every other chair of that position since the 1980s.
Hussman expressed his concerns about parts of the 1619 Project. He worried that Hannah-Jones might go against the core journalism values he espouses—the same values that have been engraved within the journalism school building named after him.
However, Ryan Thornburg, a professor at UNC, wrote on Twitter that the school “did not 'adopt' his core values when we accepted his beyond-generous donation.”
Since then, Hussman has denied having exerted any pressure on school trustees regarding Hannah-Jones's appointment. He said that he never threatened to remove any financial donations if she were hired.
Hannah-Jones eventually was offered tenure, but the lengthy and painful battle to that point led her to accept a faculty position at Howard University instead.
Walter Hussman, Jr. and his family
Hussman is married to Robena Kendrick Hussman and the couple has three children—Palmer Hussman, Olivia Ramsey, and Eliza Gaines. All three of his children have been actively involved at WEHCO, reported UNC’s The Well.