BRAY, THEODOR CHARLES (1905–2000)
The son of a South Australian market gardener, Theodor Bray was pulling page proofs for the Adelaide Register at the age of 15. He served only one year of a printing apprenticeship before becoming a Register telephone attendant then, around 1921, a cadet journalist. His journalistic work ranged widely, including covering a Royal tour, ‘a great deal of parliamentary reporting’ and a term as secretary to the editor—a role that included assisting with leader writing. Bray joined Melbourne’s Argus as a sub-editor in 1929 and was chief sub-editor when he left in 1937 to join the Courier-Mail in Brisbane as chief sub-editor.
Bray became editor in 1942 only months before Brisbane became the base for thousands of US servicemen seeking to halt the Japanese advance. In later years, Bray said he had found that the demands of being an editor in wartime far exceeded those in peacetime: ‘You got very little relief from the job but you were sitting in a position where you had tremendous responsibility because you were given information by the authorities for guidance and in the greatest confidence so that your presentation and interpretation of the news was not too far astray from the truth.’ He had to publish verbatim the communiqués issued by General Douglas MacArthur, the US commander of the Allied forces in the South-West Pacific, even though they contained ‘a degree of exaggeration ... that would only be believed by those who read them every day and were briefed with the Australian background one hour later’. If there was a very high degree of exaggeration, Bray tended to treat the communiqué ‘more quietly’.
Bray’s role was expanded to editor-in-chief of the Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail in 1954. He insisted on maintaining high editorial standards, and travelled widely, attending many international press meetings. When he resigned this role in 1968, the circulation of the Courier-Mail had risen from 90,000 to 250,000 during his 26 years as editor; over the same period, the Sunday Mail’s circulation rose from 90,000 to 340,000. Bray served as joint managing director of Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd until 1970. He was the driving force behind the establishment of Griffith University in Brisbane, and served as its first chancellor (1975–85). Bray was knighted in 1975 for his services to tertiary education.
REFs: M. Pratt, interview with T. Bray, 1971 (NLA); T. Bray, ‘View from Top Chair’, Courier-Mail, 50th anniversary souvenir, August 1983.