During her days as a pilot, Betty Ligon chased cows from above, knocked loose a tail wheel landing on a field and even dragged a wing when a wind gust hit her plane as she landed. “I was embarrassed,” she says.
But airplane feats aren’t what landed her a spot as a 2014 Woman of Impact. It’s how she’s helped opened doors for women, while making her coverage of local arts organizations must-reads. The longtime El Paso journalist started her career back when female reporters had to infiltrate newspapers’ Old Boys Clubs and convince editors they could do more than type.
A 1942 college grad, Ligon began writing when many male reporters were off fighting World War II. “I was lucky,” she says.
Stints at the Amarillo Globe News and the International News Service in Dallas followed, where she got to cover the 1944 Democratic convention. Then as an Air Force wife following her spouse to postings worldwide, she wrote for a wide variety of publications. Along the way, she had five kids.
The Ligons came to El Paso in 1968. In ’69, the Herald-Post hired her as a general assignment/school news reporter. In 1970, she became entertainment/book editor.
What does she consider her biggest impact on the El Paso community? She went everywhere, did everything and wrote about it.
“I never felt I was doing anything special – just doing my job,” she says of covering art exhibits, special receptions, symphony performances, openings, closings, etc. “They called me the ‘Energizer Bunny’ because I was the only one they knew who’d go to everything.”
But more than one local arts advocate has said that Ligon’s coverage was crucial to the success and survival of their organization.
Because of corporate cutbacks, the H-P “retired” Ligon in 1987, but she continued writing columns for the paper. When the H-P folded in 1997, Ligon’s byline moved to El Paso Inc., and now she is regular contributor to Southwest Senior.
She tells great stories of shopping for Mexican folk art in Juárez with actor Vincent Price, having dinner with Gavin MacLeod of “The Love Boat” fame, and flying in the last Powder Puff Derby.
And one accomplishment that gives her great personal pleasure: breaking the men-only tradition of a monthly dinner club that heard from prestigious speakers on the Southwest’s colorful history.
Ligon, who just turned 93, says, “Age is nothing, it’s just something the government makes you tell.”
And when young people ask her, “How do you do it?” she tells them, “Just don’t quit! – which is the same advice I’d gotten.”