A.C. Snow’s last column: A ‘swan song’ full of mixed emotion.
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]
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.
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.
A.C Snow, former editor of the Raleigh Times, poses for a portrait in his home on Jan. 15 in Raleigh.
A.C. Snow in 1948 when he was a student at Mars Hill Junior College.