The El Campo Leader-News, purchased by Fred Barbee and A. Richard Elam in 1968, was sold in May 2009 to Wharton County Newspapers, Inc.
Fred and Eleanor Barbee bought the Leader-News and began operating it July 1, 1968. The Barbees were supported in the venture by long-time newspaper publisher C.C. Woodson, and Elam, his best friend since college.
Several family members and employees of Rosenberg-based Hartman Newspapers, L.P., which publishes a group of 13 small daily and semi-weekly newspapers in Texas, including Rosenberg, Rockport, Port Lavaca, Katy and Alvin, head Wharton County Newspapers Inc.
When Barbee and Elam bought the newspaper, it was the El Campo Leader-News and Svoboda, with Svoboda being a Czech-language portion of the newspaper. Svoboda was first published in La Grange Dec. 10, 1885, but later moved to El Campo.
State Sen. Culp Krueger of El Campo bought Svoboda, and on April 3, 1957, merged it with the El Campo Leader that he had started in 1955. Since Svoboda was now part of the Leader, Krueger dated the anniversary of the new paper back to the founding of Svoboda in 1885. In 1958, Krueger bought his main competitor, the El Campo News, and renamed the newspaper again, this time to El Campo Leader-News & Svoboda.
The name Svoboda was dropped from the name of the newspaper July 11, 1984, because the newspaper no longer contained Czech-language content.
Barbee and Elam purchased their chief competitor, the El Campo Citizen, Aug. 1, 1973. The Citizen was El Campo's oldest newspaper, having been founded in 1905. The Citizen had been published on Tuesdays, and the Leader-News on Wednesdays.
Barbee made the Citizen a Saturday publication. On April 2, 1978, the Citizen flag was replaced with that of the Leader-News.