CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)

AUTHOR: CHARLI

HED:Tobacco issues rekindle thoughts of an old friend

By Charlie Langford

Daily Journal

During college I developed a close set of friends who assembled almost daily after classes to recount the day's events, study or just have a few beers and a few cigarettes.

Yes, a few cigarettes. When I was in school, 18-year-olds could purchase tobacco, but I'm not here to discuss the issues of the day or advocate tobacco use.

I'm here to talk about an old friend.

The common bind of my group of friends was that we all met and worked at the student newspaper at Mississippi State and all went on to have have fairly productive and successful lives, so far. Some of us in journalism and some outside journalism.

Clay Hall, who was a sportswriter at the student paper and got his start in television at WCBI-TV, is now a sports director for a TV station in Columbus, Ohio. Jim Mitchell, also a former sportswriter, is now an accountant in Baton Rouge, La. Billy Lampkin, who wrote entertainment news and was also managing editor, now supervises the page designers at the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat. Charles Corder, who edited the opinion page and often wrote inflammatory columns, now works on the copy desk at that other paper in Jackson.

I can't say that I have talked to each of these people in the recent past, but I have managed to keep abreast of changes in their lives - moves, promotions, more children. Each one's accomplishments filter through the grape vine.

I have kept up with all but one - Kevin Richardson.

Kevin was the business manager at the Reflector and a favorite of mine. Mainly because we were such opposites in character, background and tastes. We were also smokers and were often paired together.

Kevin epitomized what I considered the Old South. He always wore a starched shirt and khakis and never had a hair out of place. I was jeans and wrinkled flannel.

Kevin studied the bottom-line facts of business. I studied liberal arts.

He was proudly from Greenwood and always spoke with great respect for his mother and grandmother. I was a nomad with no real ties to any of the three states where I grew up - Alabama, Florida, Connecticut. Though I respected my family members, they were rarely mentioned in casual conversation.

Kevin spun tales about his.

Kevin talked about his father some, but he was most sincere and thoughtful when he talked about his grandmother - matriarch of the Richardson house.

Kevin's grandmother taught him to always wear a suit and tie when flying. She, too, had an Old South mindset and thought when people were confined to sitting close to one another, like in church, they should look their best.

Kevin had a more practical reason for dressing up when traveling. He got better service from the flight attendants.

I never met her, but from Kevin's tales she reminded me of my Grandmother Langford who lived in Water Valley.

Anyway, Kevin and I spent a semester almost inseparable during my sophomore or junior years. College at that point in my life seemed never-ending. We spent hours and hours just talking about growing up. I thought Kevin would be around forever.

Then a funny thing happened.

Kevin got a degree and got a job. I never saw or heard from him again. That was almost 16 years ago.

From what I understood at the time, Kevin took a job from R.J. Reynolds marketing Camel cigarettes in Memphis and later married.

In time, I also got a degree, a job and married.

The only time I think about Kevin now is when smoking is in the news. And that's been a lot lately.

Charlie Langford is the Daily Journal's managing editor/production.

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