This is my 30th fall at The Randolph Leader. With the traditional practice of ending articles with -30-, it seems like an appropriate time for me to go.
Founded in September 1892, The Leader had already been around for 100 years when Johnny Stevenson hired me in January 1993.
It was an honor and a privilege to work for the first five years with John B. Stevenson, who had been editor himself for 45 years, and at age 82 worked up until a few days before his passing. One of John B’s tasks at The Leader had been writing a historical column known as “Backward Glances.”
When John B died, Johnny asked if I could take over “Backward Glances.” At first I hesitated because it was such an extension of John B, and I wasn’t sure I felt worthy. I’ve now done “Backward Glances” for almost 25 years, and it has become an extension of me.
The passage of time has allowed the inclusion of the 120 Years Ago category, and smart phones and the internet help in rounding up the occasional picture.
I’m from Lanett, not Randolph County, but I’m the seventh generation of my grandmother, Mama Mil’s, family to live here, and doing “Backward Glances” has brought me closer to my roots here.
Over the years, I’ve covered every governmental entity and every school, interviewed countless 100-year-olds, photographed upteen New Year’s babies and big vegetables, assembled Valentine’s Day sections with more than 500 children ‘s photos, froze my disinterested hiney off at dozens of Christmas parades, stood outside crime scenes, watched a cockfighting ring get busted (law enforcement is my favorite), served on the biracial committee during a tumultuous time in our community, helped an adopted woman find her birth mother, sold advertising (hated it), learned a fair amount of scanner codes, county road numbers and how to spell “paraphernalia.”
Johnny was active in the Alabama Press Association, and my headline “Tempers and toilets explode in Wadley” prompted him to suggest a category for Best Headline in their annual newspaper contest.
I’ve been criticized, cussed out and ignored. I’ve received thank-you notes, complimentary emails, flowers and cookies. Of course with any public job, the negative feedback was more common than the positive.
For 26 of those years, Johnny was my editor. While he didn’t write a great deal while I was there, I enjoyed his gift for storytelling. He would brief me about where I was going or tell me an anecdote about someone I was dealing with.
A favorite memory I have of Johnny is when the Coasters came up in conversation and we ended up singing a goofy version of “Little Egypt” together. If you’re not familiar, Google it. As long as his first wife wasn’t in the office, it was a creative, laid-back work atmosphere.
One of the worst parts of the job was writing the front-page obits for three generations of Stevenson men, John B, JB (Johnny’s 17-year-old son, who died in a car accident) and finally in 2019 Johnny.
I’m leaving the Leader to work for the county. Having covered county business off and on this whole time, it should be familiar territory. It’s five minutes from home. I could run home at lunch (I’ve eaten at my desk since my Mama Mil died in 2017). No working on Monday (alone) and Tuesday nights. There are holidays I haven’t had off in 30 years. It will essentially add days to my life …
Right now what I value is time.
Thank you, Randolph Publishers, for a wonderful ride, but now it’s fall, and it’s just time for a change.