11/26/04 — OPINION -- Final chapter of a great run

View Archive

OPINION -- Final chapter of a great run

By David Williams
Published in Sports on November 26, 2004 1:55 PM

I've been trying to find the first column I wrote for the News-Argus. I can't remember what it was about or when it ran -- I would guess somewehere in the spring of 1994 -- but I am not having much luck finding it on the microfiche files.

It's easy to find the last column I wrote -- you're looking at it.

On Wednesday morning I will get in my car and pull out of my driveway for work. I will motor out to Highway 70 -- and for the first time in nearly 11 years, I will not turn right and head for Goldsboro.

I will instead turn left and head for Princeton, where I will be the new reporter for the News-Leader.

When I first got this job, I intended to work at it until I retired. It was going to be the last job I ever held. Circumstances being a fickle master, however, I accepted the opportunity to step in at Princeton and follow the path of my colleague, the late Greg Tobolski.

When I took this job at the News-Argus, I accepted it with the enthusiasm and exuberance known only to those who have truly gotten what they have wanted for a long, long time.

I had no formal training in journalism -- but neither had my father, who made it his work for better than 20 years.

He started writing in the Navy, and it took a few years to get the military machine to finally see it his way and move him from personnelman to journalist.

He became an accomplished photographer, writer and editor, winning awards for his work. Along the way he wrote about the Pueblo Incident in the 1960s, traveled to New Zealand, reached the South Pole and toured the Mediterranean in the 1970s. He retired, then hustled the beats at small-town papers as a writer and an editor for a few more years before the doctors retired him for good.

Dad showed me that if you work hard at achieving a goal long enough, and never give up on your dream, you can reach it.

The folks here at the News-Argus gave me a chance to follow in Dad's footsteps, while creating a few distinct footsteps of my own. Along the way I have watched teams win state titles and cry as they lost them. I have watched as life's dramas have played themselves out on fields and floors all over the state.

I have chronicled the passing of people like Norvell Lee, Jerry Howell, Will Davis and Sherman Futch -- all dedicated, caring people, passionate about their chosen avenue of life and fondly remembered for their roles as they passed through my life.

I have been honored to have my work take me into the lives of our neighbors. I have gotten to know people like Doyle Whitfield, Jerry Narron, George Whitfield, Randy Jordan, Bill Clingan, Randy Tilley, Daniel Barrow, Charles Davis, Rabbit Fulghum, Carl Lancaster and scores of other people because I have been right where I am.

I am a better man for knowing all these fine people, and I thank them for their comradeship as well as their patience.

There have been some rare opportunities to pass before me. I have seen a man with a heart transplant run a 5K race. I have watched as a legendary coach called it quits. I have seen state titles denied to teams, players and coaches who were more than worthy of them -- and a rare and fortunate few that brought those titles home.

And I watched a young teenage boy drop dead right in front of me.

The good folks on the editorial side of this house and the good people who have bought and read the paper over the years have seen me rant and rave, cheer and support, berate and bless nearly everything I have seen and heard throughout the years. I appreciate those who understood my points, and I truly hope for more enduring guidance for those who never quite got it.

I have said for years that we can't do what we do here without the coaches. They are the ones that get the information to us and keep the stories you read in front of the Argus' 100 eyes. I want to thank them all for keeping up their part of the bargain with such diligence.

Thanks, in order, to Jim Rush, Phil Bridges, Lance Martin, Evan Jones and Gabe Cornwall -- the five men who shared this office with me. You have all left a part of yourselves here, and I have relied on that small part of each of you at different times over the years.

To the current residents of the office -- Rudy Coggins and Gabe Whisnant -- I say the same thing I tell everyone. You are the best sports staff in North Carolina, period. You do the impossible with next to nothing, and do it all while keeping your sense of humor and your good nature. I have been truly blessed to work with both of you.

I won't be hard to find -- for some of you, I'm just changing papers. But being at the News-Argus has been a special time for me.

In the words of Billy Joel, I've loved these days.