Travis Hughs Obit

Here is the obituary for Unipresser Travis Hughs, who died in Dallas on March 19, 2001:

Travis M. Hughs (June 10, 1936 - March 19, 2001)

Travis M. Hughs, a long-time media executive with United Press International, Reuters and a co-founder of Wieck Photo DataBase, Inc., died Monday of complications from a lengthy battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, his family said. He was 64.

He was chairman and CEO of Wieck Photo DataBase, Inc., a firm he co-founded with James F. Wieck 10 years ago. The company recently began doing business as Wieck Media Services in order to reflect its expanded operations.

"I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had Travis as a business partner and, more importantly, as a friend," Wieck said. "He was straight-to-the-point but flexible as a business partner. He was generous and unequivocal as a friend. And he had the quickest mind of anybody I've ever met."

Before starting the media services company, Hughs had a 23-year career as an executive with UPI where, in the 1970s, he helped guide the news industry into the computer age and lead the wire service's development of high-speed news delivery. He also was a national media sales executive with Reuters.

During the early 1970s, as UPI began the transition to its Information Storage and Retrieval system, Hughs introduced a plan to deliver news to clients using sophisticated high-speed equipment. The "DataNews" service he envisioned would use 1,200-word-per-minute printers and electronic selectors that would allow UPI to tailor news reports to newspapers. At the time, news still was being delivered at various teletype speeds ranging from about 60 words per minute to about 75 words per minute.

Others in the company, including communications managers, wanted to develop a different system. But Hughs got the backing of editorial managers and DataNews was introduced in 1975. It soon was followed by CustomNews, a service developed for broadcasters. The two high-speed services became UPI's main news delivery systems for the next two decades as modem and printer speeds reached nearly 10,000 words per minute.

"Travis saw the benefits of high-speed delivery of UPI's news services early on," said Paul Eberhart, former managing editor. "UPI not only pioneered computerized delivery of its own news report, it sold excess capacity to third-party users. Travis developed the concept and sold it to the company and later sold the service to other media. Datanews was his baby and he did a hell of a job."

Hughs and Wieck met while both were at UPI and working on the IS&R project. Wieck was the editor of the New England News Center in Boston and Hughs was an executive in New York. After the IS&R and DataNews projects were implemented, Hughs was appointed vice president and manager of UPI's Southwest Division and moved to Dallas in 1980. Wieck soon joined him as Southwest Division Editor.

Hughs left UPI to join Reuters in 1985, where he was a national sales executive. Hughs and Wieck formed their business partnership in 1990. Wieck left UPI that fall and, with the addition of Marge Boatright, another former UPI executive, the partnership began planning for an image database to distribute news images sold on an a la carte basis.

"The database business was Travis' brainchild and he wanted a real name behind it," Wieck said. "And right after he said that, he looked at me and said, 'Let's put your name on it. They may not be able to spell it, but it'll stand out.'

"I think that says it all about Travis," Wieck added. "His ego never got in the way of anything he did. He decided Wieck would be more distinctive than Hughs and so he put my name on the company stationery instead of his own."

The New York Times News Service signed on as the first client and the database began delivering photos from The New York Times in May 1991. The partnership was dissolved and Wieck Photo DataBase, Inc., was formed in 1992 with Hughs serving as chairman and Wieck as president.

Under Hughs leadership, Wieck grew from a small firm distributing photos into a leading media services company that now distributes many types of media and multi-media files and also designs and maintains databases and media Web sites for some of the world's largest corporations.

Among its other clients are Agence France-Presse, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Canon USA, The Coca-Cola Co., DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Kyodo News Service, The New York Times Syndicate and News Services, The New York Times Newspaper Group, Toyota Corporate Services of North America and Visteon.

"Throughout his career Travis had the ability to identify the needs of the media and to create the services to fill those needs," said Boatright. "His concept of the photo database to serve the wire services, newspaper groups and corporate needs was the genesis of Wieck Media Services."

Hughs began his news career as a reporter in Port Lavaca, Texas, and soon joined the Miami, Okla., News-Record. He joined UPI in 1961 in Tulsa, replacing Mac Sebree. He served as Tulsa bureau manager until the summer of 1966 when he transferred to Houston as a regional executive in charge of sales for south Texas, again replacing Sebree, who had become the divison sales manager.

Hughs' commitment to selling UPI's service was legendary.

"At the time Travis arrrived, we had a contract with the Chronicle, KHOU-TV and four radio stations," recalled Darrell Mack of the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, who was Houston bureau manager when Hughs arrived. "When he left for New York in 1970, he had sold the Post, he had sold all six TV stations and he had sold 23 of the 24 radio stations. That's the greatest sales job in a metropolitan area that I ever saw in all my years with UP and UPI."

According to Sebree, now living in Vancouver, Wash., "Travis said right off the bat he was going to sell the Houston Post come hell or high water. The next thing you know, he was marching in Oveta Culp Hobby's office and getting the deal because of a UPI exclusive."

"The story involved the arrest of Richard Speck, who had killed some nurses in Illinois," said I.J. "Pinky" Vidocovich, who at the time was Hughs' counterpart in New Orleans. "He'd only been in Houston a few days when he got the Post deal. I called Travis to congratulate him. 'Hey,' he said. 'I thought you guys said this job was tough.'"

"I remember that the Texas State Network did not have UPI and Travis went over and used the audio service as a Trojan Horse and practically gave them the wire," said Seabree. "Bill Payette, the division manager, wouldn't approve the deal because paper and ribbons (for the wire machine) weren't covered.

"So Travis just jumped on a plane and flew to (headquarters in) New York and got the deal approved. The next thing we know, Travis is calling from New York saying he's got the deal. He didn't tell me. He didn't tell Payette. He just got it done.

"He was gifted," said Seabree. "He was a super guy."

Hughs also helped the Houston bureau cover news and sporting events, including the astronauts and their families and the Apollo moon missions, the University of Houston and UCLA basketball rivalries and several of Muhammad Ali's title fights.

He was born in Waco, but grew up in Austin and Houston, and graduated from the Texas Military Institute in San Antonio. Following a four-year stint in the Navy, where he did carrier duty, he studied journalism at the University of Houston.

Hughs is survived by his wife, Linda; two daughters, Mona and Jennifer; two sons, Travis III and Anthony and his family, and a brother, Joe and his family.

He was predeceased by his first wife, Toni, and his second wife, Marsha.