Vivian Castleberry, 95, who broke barriers for women in journalism and supported UNT by founding the Castleberry Peace Institute, died Oct. 4 in Dallas. She began her career as a child by interviewing her neighbors in Larue for her own newspaper she wrote by hand. She wrote for the student newspapers in high school and at Southern Methodist University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree.
After graduation, she worked for a publishing company until she got an offer in 1956 to work for the Dallas Times Herald. She worked there on and off, between pregnancies, as home furnishings editor, women’s news editor and section editor. During her 28 years at the Times Herald, she tackled subjects that hadn’t been covered before — such as breast cancer, domestic abuse and disabilities — leading to numerous awards and honors. She later was the first woman named to the newspaper’s editorial board.
After retiring from the Times Herald in 1984, she was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. Three years later, she founded the nonprofit organization Peacemakers Inc. She had been a pacifist since she was a child, when her father had to cope with an injury sustained during World War I. As part of Peacemakers, she traveled to Russia several times as a “grassroots citizen diplomat” to attend conferences and interview Russians on their efforts to bring democracy to their country. She also chaired the Peacemakers’ First International Women’s Peace Conference in 1988.
Her activism led to the 2010 founding of the Castleberry Peace Institute, a collaboration between Peacemakers and UNT’s peace studies program. The institute sponsors cutting-edge research and educational programs on the causes of war and peace and is the only peace science research institute in the southern U.S. She was awarded the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism’s most prestigious honor, the C.E. Shuford Hall of Honor Award. She also was the subject of a 2009 KERA documentary in the Texas Trailblazer series and was the author of several books.