I’m almost positive I wouldn’t be at the Monroe Journal had it not been for Don Rowe. Back in the summer of 2009, he told me about a part-time staff writer position for the paper I was really too busy to even think about having.
Applying for the ‘why not?’ of it, I got it and an unexpected 10 and a half years later, I’m writing a tribute about him. Through way more than 10 and a half years, he captured the wins and losses of Monroe County, particularly its south end, as told by a sports writer.
It was something he could never turn off, even years after he wasn’t doing it full time. He told me last summer about Joe Burrow’s connection to Amory, pretty much forecasting the LSU quarterback and Heisman winner was going to dominate.
He was a wealth of institutional sports knowledge for not just our local schools but a number of games, and their officials, in general. He was the type of person who had standards as far as work ethic and expected it from others.
There was more than once I’d get a call from him after 11 p.m. about some sort of police activity that’d get me out of bed and into town to investigate. I’d say a few choice words to myself while getting dressed, but that kind of dedication he expected me to give is a good standard to have.
Don used to coach, and I can guarantee the same expectations of work ethic came out in his players, which probably still helps them in some way later in life.
Don could be rigid. Don didn’t hold back on what he thought. Don was old school.
I occasionally hear that “old school” description about the fewer number of people in my age group quick to call somebody out, quick to stand their ground and quick to emulate the attitude to not cross them. It’s a fading attitude, hence the “old school” label.
The older I get, I haven’t decided if I’m just getting a little grumpier in certain situations or if I’m inspired by the old school people still holding onto a stonewall way of thinking and acting.
You can be rigid and talk a good game, but until you have the drive to fully back up your words with your actions and do it well, you’re not old school.
Again, Don was old school.
I’ve heard plenty of stories through the years in places I’ve worked about old school journalists.
The locals told me 20 years ago back when Delmus Harden covered news for the Itawamba County Times, “If something was going on, he was there…with extra flashbulbs and all.”
Closer to here, I heard the stories about Bonny Parham’s stories making people line up at
Amory Advertiser newspaper boxes on Tuesday nights. From what I could tell, Clyde Wilson lived for the Aberdeen Examiner, and (just like she was in my 10th grade English class) Virginia King didn’t pull back from telling like it was in the newspaper.
Those were a few of the old-school legends of the past from previous generations. We’re not seasoned enough to be there yet, if ever.
I knew Don on a personal level from catching the worst case of poison ivy I’ve ever had cleaning out one of his flower beds and giving him pointers acolyting at church. Because of that personal level, I can say he was one of the last old school people I know in the business.
Rarely, he’d call me out on a math error or spelling “affected” instead of “effected” in a story but seemed overall supportive of my work by not overloading me with critiques. I always trusted his judgment because I knew he was fully capable of backing up his words with actions and doing it well.
Through the last 10 years, I remember him talk about staying up into the wee hours of the night writing while freelancing for the Commercial Dispatch, and even a magazine devoted to Mississippi State athletics. Being a newspaper writer was in his blood and being a fully devoted newspaper writer turns you rigid with time.
Stepping away from his keyboard and the sidelines, I knew of the softer side Don had. He was one of the several people there in support when I lost my mother nearly five years ago. He was one of the regulars at the Elkin Theatre, enjoying bringing his great-grandson, Tyler, most weekends.
When I think of his grandfather-figure side, I think of his nickname they knew him by – Mumps. Last week, friends, former players and people he influenced like me lost Don Rowe. Last week, those who knew his other side lost Mumps.
While being old school will be an ever-evolving thing of the past, memories of Mumps help keep a little bit of that attitude alive for a little while longer. You can dig through old Aberdeen Examiners, though, and be assured that ink will always be permanent.