Former Inquirer publisher Fitzwater showed passion for community, led by example


Former Gonzales Inquirer publisher Terence James “Terry” Fitzwater leaves behind a legacy of journalistic integrity, championing for the underdog and a devotion to community service following his death on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at the age of 65.

Fitzwater, who had been editor and publisher of The Kingsville Record since April 2020, passed away due to complications following a brief illness. Fitzwater’s sister and three of his children were at his bedside at the hospital ICU when he died.

His current newspaper honored their leader in a post breaking the news about his death on Tuesday:

“Terry was a passionate believer in the importance of a free and robust press to be a force for good in both a community and our democracy. He championed and led local events to strengthen his community and spotlighted the stories of those serving our country. He built strong and diverse relationships throughout his communities to ensure that his papers were relevant and was a proud member the Elks and Rotary International. He was also a member of St. Gertrude the Great Catholic Church in Kingsville. You will be missed. Rest In Peace, Terry.”

A veteran journalist, Fitzwater was a former regional sales and marketing manager at Gannett Publishing Services for all Gannett daily newspapers in his home state of Michigan from 2014 to 2017. This included USA Today as well as the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Lansing State Journal, Port Huron Times-Herald, Battle Creek Enquirer and Livingston Daily Press and Argus.

However, in November 2017, Fitzwater left to take the position as publisher of the Gonzales Inquirer, one of the oldest continuously operated weekly newspapers in the state of Texas. Fitzwater became known for his passion for local news reporting as well as his editorials and columns, which often featured a unique take on the community and the world.

His peers recognized his work as he won a first-place award for best editorial and best headline writing from the Texas Press Association and also took home honors for best column and news coverage writing from the South Texas Press Association. One of his proudest achievements was winning the prestigious Latham Award for Community Service, which recognizes the leadership a newspaper takes within its community to foster change for the better.

Fitzwater also founded a Come and Taste It Craft beer and wine festival that was sponsored by the Inquirer during his time as publisher, with the event taking place in Texas Heroes Square (formerly Confederate Square) in downtown Gonzales.

Erik McCowan, who worked as a reporter for the Inquirer under Fitzwater, eulogized his former boss when news of his passing was announced on Facebook.

“He was a good guy, a great boss, and an American who served and wasn't fooled by the fake patriotism that blinds so many,” McCowan said. “He'd call it out, but in a way that wasn't insulting (unless they deserved it). It was fascinating to watch. Too bad Michigan didn't go all the way this year (in the college football playoffs) for him.”

As a U.S. Marine, Fitzwater was also an unwavering supporter of veterans within the communities where he worked.

In April 2020, Fitzwater left Gonzales to take over as editor and publisher at The Kingsville Record, which had been owned and operated by the legendary King family and the King Ranch since the early 1900s until it changed hands in December 2019. Within a short period of time, Fitzwater had left as indelible a mark on Kleberg County as he had on Gonzales County.

“I am shocked and saddened to hear about Mr. Fitzwater’s passing,” said Emeri Sage Drewry. “I had the distinct opportunity to intern for him in the summer of 2022 while majoring in Journalism at TAMUK. Mr. Fitzwater’s passion for fostering and reporting on local stories was the driving force to keeping community members informed. This passion was passed onto me and he taught me that reporting was one angle of the story, the other was the relationships I established with those I was reporting on or on behalf of.

As journalists we commit ourselves to delivering the news. Mr. Fitzwater was the epitome of this ideology. I will forever be grateful for the time I spent with him, but most importantly for the lessons he taught me. Rest In Peace, Mr. Fitzwater.”

Journalism was not Fitzwater’s only interest, however. He studied litigation, real estate and municipal law at Rutgers Law School and also studied history, economics, English literature and political science as an undergrad at Central Michigan University.

A memorial for Terry Fitzwater will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 10, at St. Gertrude the Great Catholic Church, 1120 S. 8th St., Kingsville.