Frances DeVore

Frances DeVore

Year Inducted: 2017

Frances DeVore was born Mary Frances Bell in Clarksville, Tennessee. After several moves, the family wound up in Greenville, Michigan in 1932, where Frances began working at the Greenville Daily News. This was the start of her newspaper career.

In 1937 the family moved to Evansville, Indiana and Frances continued her career at the Evansville Press. While covering a “Barn Storming” aerial circus she met Marion Lytle, who became her first husband. Frances moved to Ocala, Florida in 1941. Frances had the opportunity to take a temporary position at the Ocala Star-Banner in 1947 as a proof reader, and then Frances became Society Editor for the Star-Banner, and finally moved into reporting. She was innovative in her gathering of the news, even to making rounds of the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department on horseback in the 1950’s. Not that she didn’t have a car, she just enjoyed riding her horse.

In 1951 Frances, along with several other women in the newspaper business in Florida, formed the Florida Women’s Press Club. The club was formed to recognize women in the journalism field and promote their contributions to news gathering and reporting. The club was such a success, and the men in journalism felt neglected, that it became The Florida Press Club and admitted men.

The halls of the Ocala Star-Banner are filled with stories of her mentoring to new reporters and encouraging their efforts, and Frances would go out of her way to find new talent. One story from 1965 involves her search for a reporter for the Crystal River area while she was regional editor. Her unorthodox approach was to contact the local librarian to find out who read the most books, which ultimately led her to meeting Lucy Morgan. She knew talent when she saw it, and talked Lucy into giving it a try. Morgan said that “You can blame Frances Devore for making me a reporter. I was a stay at home mother of three children living in Crystal River in April of 1965 when Frances knocked on my front door and asked me to become a “stringer” for the Ocala Star Banner. I told her I had never written anything and asked how she had found her way to my front door. She said the local librarian, Brownie Searle, suggested my name because I read more books than anyone else in town. Frances suggested I should be able to write because of all that reading. We needed the money so I agreed to try it. I guess you could say I really liked it.” Morgan went on to win a Pulitzer for her investigative journalism and is also a member of the Hall of Fame.

Frances won acclaim for her first person interviews with veterans of World War II during the Fifty Year anniversary. Her personal touch to their stories helped people who did not go through the experience better understand their contributions.

As a member of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Committee she was an integral part in forming and promoting the Southeastern Youth Fair. To honor her dedication to the youth the fair has instituted the Frances DeVore Animal Fever Grand Champion Trophy to be awarded annually, keeping her memory alive, and recognizing achievement in bringing together her three loves: youth, agriculture and art.

During the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States she won a National Freedom Foundation Award for Photo Journalism.

Frances battled cancer twice and won. While fighting cancer and enduring the treatment she wrote first person accounts of the ongoing battle. This garnered her the New York Times Chairman’s Award for reporting.
Frances semi-retired in 1967. That didn’t stop her. She continued writing columns for the Star-Banner. Anything from the first grass-hopper sparrows of the winter migration to the joys of Key Lime pie. She encouraged the readers of her weekly column to become involved in the community, and to read and to vote.

Frances’s last column appeared on October 9, 2006, fifty-nine years after starting with the Ocala Star-Banner. Frances lives on in her words and her work. Frances’ influence can not only be felt in Florida but in the field of journalism nationwide.