A.C. Snow’s last col­umn: A ‘swan song’ full of mixed emo­tion.

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY A.C. SNOW

When I was a wee fel­low, my am­bi­tion was to own a gro­cery store. Why? So I could have ac­cess to all the candy I could eat.

I was hooked on BB Bats, a hard, sucker-like treat that could last 15 min­utes or so. Dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, when cash was hard to come by, my wi­d­owed mother bought most of our gro­ceries with eggs and barn­yard chick­ens. My weekly al­lowance was what I could buy with one egg at the nearby coun­try store.

By the time I grew up and came home from World War II, I had de­cided I would be­come an at­tor­ney. But my mother in­sisted she had read in the Bi­ble (Matthew 19:24) that lawyers had as much chance go­ing to heaven as a camel had pass­ing through the eye of a nee­dle. Ac­tu­ally, the ex­cerpt refers to a rich man.

Nev­er­the­less, there are two at­tor­neys in the fam­ily, and I don’t spec­u­late about their chances of mak­ing it to Par­adise.

Born with no me­chan­i­cal

abil­ity or other in­comeearn­ing tal­ent, I turned to words as a con­duit for my emo­tions as my source of sur­vival. Have you ever con­tem­plated the power of spo­ken and writ­ten words?

So for al­most 70 years — seven at The Burling­ton Times-News and 63 at The Raleigh Times and The News & Ob­server — I have main­tained a love af­fair with words.

But while I re­tired from The News & Ob­server in 1989, I kept writ­ing this col­umn. And af­ter so many decades, I’ve de­cided this will be my last col­umn, at least for now. While it is hard to turn off my brain — so at­tuned to find­ing the next col­umn topic — it is time.

I’ll espe­cially miss the thou­sands of read­ers, who have in a way be­come mem­bers of the huge fam­ily of sub­scribers. Like mem­bers of large fam­i­lies, we haven’t al­ways agreed.

“I see you have a new photo at the top of your col­umn,” a reader writes. “I used to come down­town and see you drink­ing cof­fee with your friends at the Pro­fes­sional Phar­macy. You were ugly as hell then, and you’re ugly as hell now.”

And a post­card from a lum­ber­jack in Ore­gon reads, “My Mom sent me a copy of your book of col­umns. I read one ev­ery morn­ing when I’m in the bath­room.”

In con­trast, I’ve been moved by the warm re­sponses from read­ers, in­clud­ing a re­cent one from a reader who wildly ex­ag­ger­ates the col­umn’s worth by call­ing it “a gift to hu­man­ity.” I laughed aloud.

While ex­press­ing my grat­i­tude to you read­ers, I would be re­miss not to men­tion the many in­spir­ing jour­nal­ists I have worked with along the way. I am espe­cially grate­ful to pub­lisher Frank Daniels Jr., who al­lowed me free­dom of editorial ex­pres­sion with­out cen­sor­ship when I was ed­i­tor of The Raleigh Times.

I do be­lieve that a free press is a gift to hu­man­ity around the world.

BE­COM­ING A PRO­FES­SIONAL JOUR­NAL­IST

Af­ter two great years at Mars Hill Ju­nior Col­lege, I went to school at UNCChapel Hill. I re­mem­ber well when I first be­came a pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ist.

While I was still in school, my fea­ture writ­ing pro­fes­sor sent us out to in­ter­view some­one. It so hap­pened that Betty Smith, au­thor of the renowned best seller, “A Tree Grows in Brook­lyn,” was liv­ing in Chapel Hill at the time. I sum­moned the courage to ask for an in­ter­view. In ad­di­tion to scor­ing an A on the pa­per, I sold the story to the Win­ston-Salem Jour­nal for the princely sum of $5. I kept the un­cashed check for many years be­fore mis­plac­ing it.

There have been some awk­ward mo­ments along the way. At The Burling­ton Times-News, my beat in­cluded cov­er­ing the po­lice de­part­ment. One day, the sergeant in charge clued me in that they were go­ing to raid a lo­cal civic club where mem­bers had been im­bib­ing in al­co­hol, which was against the law. They asked me to go along.

I de­clined, although I was briefed on the plan­ning de­tails. Af­ter the raid, when sev­eral prom­i­nent cit­i­zens were ar­rested, our pub­lisher called me into his of­fice and said he’d been in­formed that I had planned the raid. I ve­he­mently de­nied the charge. Shortly there­after, I de­cided it was time to move on.

Hello Raleigh Times!

ROLE OF THE JOUR­NAL­IST

A jour­nal­ist’s mind is a store­house of odds and ends and sig­nif­i­cant and in­signif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ences. In most cases, the rou­tine sto­ries far out­num­ber the big sto­ries por­trayed on TV or in news mag­a­zines. The jour­nal­ist has ex­pe­ri­enced those or ob­served and de­scribed them in the course of the pro­fes­sion.

For ex­am­ple, one morn­ing dur­ing the era of seg­re­ga­tion, soon af­ter the “Col­ored” and “White” wa­ter fountains had been re­moved from the court­house lawn on Fayet­teville Street, I was hav­ing cof­fee at the phar­macy next door. A black woman en­tered and timidly ap­proached the soda foun­tain where she in­quired, “Do you serve Col­ored?” The em­ployee’s re­ply of “Col­ored what?” warmed my heart. I re­al­ized that per­haps we were fi­nally turn­ing the cor­ner in race re­la­tions, at least in Raleigh.

Af­ter al­most 70 years of news­pa­per­ing, I have been go­ing through an emo­tional tsunami as I write this last col­umn.

So, I will let this Ir­ish Bless­ing speak for me: “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back. May the rains fall softly on your fields and the sun shine warmly on your face. May the good Lord hold you in the palm of his hand and give you peace un­til we meet again.”

A.C. Snow worked at The Raleigh Times from 1957 to 1989, be­com­ing its ed­i­tor in 1973. He has been a long­time colum­nist for The News & Ob­server and is a mem­ber of the Raleigh Hall of Fame and the NC Me­dia & Jour­nal­ism Hall of Fame. He can be reached at ac­[email protected]

From State Ar­chives

For­mer Raleigh Times Ed­i­tor A.C. Snow works in the news­room in this file photo. Snow, now 95, has writ­ten a col­umn for The News & Ob­server for decades.

LAURA DORTON

Pub­lisher Frank Daniels Jr. and Raleigh Times Ed­i­tor A.C. Snow look over the fi­nal edi­tion of the Raleigh Times as it rolls off the presses on Nov. 30, 1989. Snow wrote the head­line, “That’s all, folks.” He has writ­ten col­umns for The News & Ob­server for years.

ROBERT WILLETT rwil­[email protected]­sob­server.com

A.C Snow, for­mer ed­i­tor of the Raleigh Times, poses for a por­trait in his home on Jan. 15 in Raleigh.

Courtesy of A.C. Snow

A.C. Snow in 1948 when he was a stu­dent at Mars Hill Ju­nior Col­lege.

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