While waiting for the Alabama results to solidify Tuesday night, I was reading the obit for Roy Reed.
Roy was the great stylist when I was a rookie on the highly literate National staff of the New York Times in the early ‘70s. He could describe the exotica of New Orleans, where he was based, with the same fervor and grace he had shown in the head-breaker Deep South of the Civil Rights decade.
For me, he was the correspondent to emulate. I even noticed the conservative dark-blue pinstriped suits he wore on more formal occasions, making him look like a senator.
Roy Reed was from rural Arkansas and he never forgot it. I know he would have loved the campaign in Alabama – a candidate who prosecuted the murderers of little black girls vs. a candidate who stalked teen-agers in shopping malls and outside public buildings.
Fortunately, the Times and other great journals have deep and talented staffs these days, to capture the ludicrous spectacle of a hustler from New York conning people out there in America.
Also fortunately, I was able to hear Howell Raines, another of those great southerners who have graced the Times, talking about his beloved rural Alabama on MSNBC Tuesday night and also via a recent op-ed piece in the Times.
There was a great tradition of writers on that National staff when I joined it in 1970. Gene Roberts, who had covered civil rights and Vietnam, was the national editor, expanding his staff, and he called this young baseball reporter and said, “I like the way you rot.”
I sussed out that this was the charming accent of a self-styled “freckle belly” from eastern North Carolina who meant “the way you write.” Gene sold me. He and his deputy, David R. Jones, sent me off to Louisville to cover Appalachia.
What a staff. Roy Reed in New Orleans. My dear friend Ben Franklin plus John Herbers and so many other good people in the Washington bureau. Jon Nordheimer and Jim Wooten in Atlanta. Paul Delaney in Chicago. B.D. Ayres in Kansas City. Jerry Flint in Detroit, John Kifner in Boston and so many others further from my region.
(There was only one African-American, Delaney, and no women; the only way I can explain it is, “It was 1970.” Further down the decade, under Dave Jones, the NYT added Grace Lichtenstein in Denver as the first female national correspondent and later Molly Ivins, Judith Cummings, E.R. Shipp and Isabel Wilkerson, who would win a Pulitzer under Soma Golden's editorship.)
In my years, a kind day editor, Irv Horowitz, in New York, kept track of us, and great copy editors had the time and mandate to ask you to rewrite something so it would read better.
We communicated by telephone – not email and not cell phones. Such a primitive era. I relied on these older professionals to teach me something, anything, by osmosis.
I would like to correct one statement in that obit concerning Roy Reed: It said he was down the road getting a soft drink when James Meredith was shot on his epic protest walk through Mississippi in 1966, and that Roy’s respectful colleagues later presented him with a Coke bottle trophy that said “WHERE’S ROY REED?” in memory of his brief absence.
The fact is, there was another day when Roy turned up missing.
Dave Jones, our ringmaster in New York, was trying to find someone to get to a story in the South that seemed urgent at the time. (I can no longer remember what it was.) Dave tried me in Louisville. No answer. Dave tried one of the Atlanta guys. No answer. Dave tried Roy Reed in New Orleans. No answer. Ever diligent, Dave solved the problem some other way, and the world went on.
A few days later, the mystery was solved. A delightful March zephyr had moved north from the Gulf into Louisiana, into Georgia, and even to the southern banks of the Ohio River in Kentucky. All three correspondents had been, shall we say, indisposed.
On the phone, I asked Roy where he had been when the office was looking for us.
In his Arkansas drawl, Roy said: “Hidin’ out.”
I adopted his phrase for times when I was unfindable. Bless the era before cell phones. Bless the southern phrases, the southern outlook, I learned to understand from my colleagues, better reporters than I ever would be. And bless Roy Reed, for writing about a region that continues to produce great stories, from the new generation.
Nina Simone was voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this week. She passed in 2003; what took them so long?
Not sure what Simone would have thought about that, but she surely would have loved the vote in Alabama Tuesday night.
A candidate who was receptive to the integration of his high school back in the day beat out a religion-spouting accused pedophile who thinks slavery came during a good time for families in America.
Simone knew it all, put it into her music. She was an American treasure.
She mentions Alabama way up high in her signature song, “Mississippi Goddam.”
Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Nina Simone:
12/13/2017 12:17:48 pm
And God bless the black voters of Alabama who performed a great national service yesterday.
12/13/2017 02:25:45 pm
John, I doubt you were awake in the Tyrol while this happened, but there was a great scene from Jones HQ as the city vote began to add up. Blacks were dancing in place; so were whites. You could see the gloom and mourning of the past year beginning to pass. A terrific campaigner was able to thank other people -- imagine that -- and use words like "respect" and "dignity" and "together." And plenty of blacks alongside Jones as he thanked voters for showing. In this post-Obama time, there was some hope.
12/14/2017 10:41:49 am
John, I had a feeling of poetic justice as I stayed up watching the black vote make its reassuring impact as the clock ran out. The Saturday before I spent an entire day at the Afro American Cultural Museum in Washington, DC.
12/14/2017 12:32:17 pm
Alan, you know what the banner said at Fiorentina when Napoli and Maradona came to town?
12/15/2017 02:51:02 am
We live in Eppan(Appiano) a mainly German-speaking town ten minutes outside of Bolzano. Bolzano is much more Italianized, I would say it's about 50-50. The history of Mussolini's "Italianization" of Alto Adige is interesting and also sad. But these days relatively happy coexistence is the norm. We enjoy the best aspects of both worlds here, the best of both the Germanic and the Italian cultures. And we are an hour from Verona to the south and an hour to Innsbruck to the north. Milan and Munich are both three hours away. Right now it's snowing outside.
12/15/2017 09:13:54 am
John, I agree with you. People around the world are horrified at the grotesque falloff from #44 to #45. Well, except for in the Kremlin.
12/13/2017 10:27:44 pm
Oh boy: "Fortunately, the Times and other great journals have deep and talented staffs these days..."
12/14/2017 09:15:11 am
Brian: Trump's "success" is letting the Mnuchins and Wilburs and Little Jareds slink off with our money.
12/14/2017 07:36:56 pm
I sure do, George....in a sense. Mnuchen, Cohn and Wilbur Ross are the finest economics team in our government in my lifetime. On that statement of fact I will defend them tooth and nail against any assault. I have close friends who know the Mnuchin family. I’ll teach you a thing or two about that family if you wish. I saw Jamie Diamond leave a White House meeting with Cohn and be questioned and was VERY unhappy. Good for Cohn! Wilbur is one of the brightest guys I’ve ever seen in that position. He understands fully how the US worker has been raped by the financial guys exporting our jobs. This is serious stuff. Don’t ever assume you know this team.
12/14/2017 03:17:13 am
Such a nice article, George. Thanks for including the link to the NYT obituary, which led me to the link on his report of that Selma march -- great reading. I was interested to see, too, the promo/cover of his 2012 memoir, which alerted me to its existence ... and now I really MUST read it. And all because you wrote about your distinguished colleague. Wishing you and your family a very merry Christmas and a happy new year in 2018.
12/14/2017 09:17:37 am
Hillel, thank you for the wishes. My best to you and your family at Chanukah. I now have to find Roy's book....didn't know it existed, either. Be well, GV
12/14/2017 05:22:31 am
George, “...conning people out there in America” could easily have read “conning people out of their America.”
12/14/2017 09:19:01 am
Mendel, nice turn of words. You must be a writer.
12/14/2017 12:12:59 pm
12/15/2017 01:21:10 am
12/15/2017 09:22:09 pm
Dear Bruce and Gene,
12/15/2017 01:12:16 am
12/15/2017 09:26:17 am
12/18/2017 10:21:16 am
12/18/2017 07:33:14 pm
Hi Bruce and Gene,
12/18/2017 07:57:15 pm
12/19/2017 06:38:22 pm
Bruce, cut the personal crap regarding our President. It should be beneath you. As to trade deficit/surplus w Canada. Don’t believe your adopted government’s propaganda. Check out Wilbur’s statements and compare the two. Bottom line, NAFTA is dead to our government and should be, in all fairness to our workers. That weird little man with all the charts who ran against Bill Clinton was the only guy who knew what he was talking about. He was correct in his assessment of NAFTA. Sigh...
12/19/2017 08:29:26 pm
12/20/2017 07:10:21 pm
Bruce, the US has a multi billion dollar trade NAFTA deficit with Canada. That is the fact. It is not for me to do your homework for you. But please do yours and don’t accuse when you really don’t command the facts. At this point, I’ll pass on further comment.
12/20/2017 07:39:49 pm
12/20/2017 08:20:12 pm
Ok, last time. Bruce,ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s simply ignorance. We have currently an $11B trade deficit with Canada. That is the fact. It is mostly due to auto parts. Now do your homework. I’d appreciate an apology when you do. Or if you prefer I will leave this site because I really don’t have the patience to put up with false claims like yours. This has been a very rewarding place for me to spend time. But maybe idiot politics governs everything these days and facts and reason are just too old fashioned.
12/20/2017 08:53:52 pm
Comments are closed.
“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.