Grace Halsell (1923-2000), journalist and author, was a student at Texas Tech from 1939 to 1942, at Columbia University from 1943 to 1944, at Texas Christian University from 1945 to 1951, and at the Sorbonne from 1957 to 1958. From 1942 to 1944, she worked for the Avalanche-Journal in Lubbock. Halsell became the first woman to cover the police beat at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where she worked as a reporter from 1945 through 1951. During that time, she met Andy Fournier, chief of detectives of the Fort Worth Police Department. They married in 1948 and divorced in 1952.
From 1952 to 1965, Halsell worked in various fields, including public relations and free-lance writing. Her columns appeared in such newspapers as the New York Herald Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Japan Times, the Hong Kong Tiger-Standard, and the Lima La Prensa. Throughout her career, she traveled alone to and worked in many places in Europe, Asia, South America, and Central America. She was a reporter at the Washington Bureau of The Houston Post when she became a staff writer for President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. During her three-year tenure as a staff writer, she was assigned to write official statements and became the highest-ranking woman on his staff at the time.
After her stint in the White House, Halsell focused her career on writing non-fiction books. Among her thirteen published books are Soul Sister (1969), Evers (1971), Black-White Sex (1972), Bessie Yellowhair (1973), Los Viejos (1976), The Illegals (1978), Journey to Jerusalem (1981), In Their Shoes (1996), and Forcing God's Hand: Why Millions Pray for a Quick Rapture -- and Destruction of Planet Earth (1999). In her writings she emphasized love and tolerance for others and went to great effort to change her physical appearance to experience how other ethnicities lived, including taking medication to darken her skin for Soul Sister research. She also wrote four books for young adults about the cultures of countries in Central and South America.
In 1993, the University of Pennsylvania bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award upon Halsell. The Association for Women Journalists honored her career in journalism in 1996, and Texas Christian University’s journalism department named her the Green Honors Chair Professor of Journalism.
In 2000, Halsell died in Washington, D.C., of complications from treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer related to the medicine she took to darken her skin for Soul Sister research.
Halsell’s father, Harry H. Halsell, was the author of nine books, including Cowboys and Cattleland (1937), Memories of the Old Chisholm Trail (1939), and The Old Cimarron (1944).