HOUSTON – Martha Ann Williams Walls, 87, died peacefully at her home Tuesday of natural causes.
Mrs. Walls was a businesswoman, a loving mother, a valued friend and a great wit and storyteller. She was the widow of newspaper entrepreneur B. Carmage Walls and was chairman of the board of Southern Newspapers Inc. of Houston. The company operates 14 newspapers — 11 in Texas and three in Alabama, including the Times-Journal.
Carmage Walls founded the company, and he and Mrs. Walls managed it together for for more than 60 years. It will continue operations under the leadership of the couple’s daughter, Lissa Walls Vahldiek, who is the company’s CEO and the owner of the Times-Journal.
A memorial service will be held for Mrs. Walls Friday, Dec. 5, at 2 p.m. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road, Houston. Bradshaw-Carter Memorials of Houston will handle arrangements.
Mrs. Walls was born April 21, 1927, in Gadsden. Her parents were Inez and Aubrey (Pick) Williams.
Mrs. Walls was valedictorian of her class at Gadsden High School, and she began her newspaper career as assistant to the publisher of The Gadsden Times at the age of 20. At her death, she had worked in the newspaper business for 67 years, from the age of melted lead type to the Internet age.
Martha Ann Williams and Carmage Walls married on Jan. 2, 1954. They were partners in life and in business. They traveled the world together, and Mrs. Walls earned her pilot’s license in the early 1960s. Mr. and Mrs. Walls often explored newspaper markets in which they had an interest from the pilot and co-pilot’s seat of their airplane.
Though neither attended college, Mr. and Mrs. Walls established journalism scholarship funds at Baylor University, Trinity University, the University of Alabama and the University of Texas. They also established the Carmage and Martha Ann Walls Distinguished Chair of Tropical Diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
For a number of years, Mrs. Walls also served on the board of Jefferson Pilot Insurance Co., later purchased by Chubb Insurance.
She was preceded in death by her husband; by a daughter, Jean Walls Garcich; a son, Mark Thomas Walls; stepson, Carmage Lee Walls Sr.; and three grandsons, Mark Thomas Walls Jr., Benson Dunn Walls and Jerry Anthony Garcich.
Mrs. Walls is survived by her son, Byrd Cooper Walls of Vancouver, British Columbia, and his wife, Carol; daughter, Lissa Walls Vahldiek, of Houston, and her husband, Paul; daughter-in-law, Yvonne Walls, of Birmingham; daughter-in-law, Nell Dunn Walls of Lanett; granddaughters Sarah Elizabeth Malinak, and husband, Joseph, of Asheville, North Carolina, and Dinah Garcich Bilkis, and husband, Dave, of Lake Worth, Florida, and Paige Garcich, of Phenix City; grandsons, Carmage Lee Walls Jr. and wife, Jeanne, of Birmingham, and Joseph Walls and partner, Greg Fritzler, of Lanett; 12 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
The family wishes to express its gratitude to Mrs. Walls’ beloved and cherished assistant, Jason Keever.
Family members also offer thanks to caregivers Wanda Jones, Irish Lashley, Brenda Montgomery, Edna Stringfellow, Pauline Silmon-Seymour, Jacqueline Williams, Karen Martin, Enriquita Monge and George Wells.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Salvation Army or to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road, Houston, TX 77056.