His name was Harry Reeves
His name was Harry Reeves. As circulation manager of the Griffin Daily News he held all the delivery route books. He alone could give a boy a paper route or tell him to go home.
More than 54 years ago, there I was standing in front of Harry asking for a newspaper route. I would learn that Harry, as numerous boys would affectionately refer to him, was the most gentle and humble man I have ever known. He was also wise and I would learn that he could be trusted, and if I listened he would give me solid advice. He told me I needed a Social Security card. I was not sure what that was but I went and registered for one. More than 50 years later I still have that card and as a soonto-be retired senior citizen I realize that was good advice.
We have all read accounts of how people find or stumble upon a job that transforms into a lifelong career. I have lots of friends with great stories about how they felt a “calling” into a particular field or profession.
My reason for asking for a paper route was very clear. Growing up one of nine children, I only wanted to make money so I could dress nicer than my family could afford, and I wanted to save some of that money to one day buy a ’55 Chevy.
Although my children would argue my choices in style I was able to achieve both those goals (actually I bought two ’55 Chevys).
What I did not anticipate was I had entered a profession that would enable me to enjoy a career of community service and helping those less fortunate than myself. Of course, I was much older when I realized that by building relationships with fellow employees and local leaders I could use my position to help individuals, families, communities, churches, civic clubs, schools and so much more. That’s what newspapers can and still do for a community.
Someone asked me recently the most important impact newspapers have had on my life. That’s an easy question. I met Barbara Henderson, the young lady that would become my wife. One of my supervisors at the paper asked me to go downtown to a local jewelry store for an advertisement. The owner there liked me and thought Barbara and I should meet. She and the supervisor arranged for Barb to be the only one in the store, meaning we had to talk. The romance was on and 42 years later we have been blessed with two fine sons, Tilman and Will, and daughters-in-law Sarah and Courtney. This summer we received an additional blessing with our first grandchild, Palmer Tilman Raybon.
Barbara had applied for a position at the newspaper and I overheard the publisher and business manager mention her name. I informed them they could not hire her because I was going to marry her. I must say here that she for sure would have become the best newspaper person in our family. Our family has grown and prospered in part because of community newspapers.
We have worked in Georgia newspapers in Griffin, Valdosta, Americus, Dalton, Rome and —thanks to my friends at Boone Newspapers — we served in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
I mentioned above the avenue of community service and responsibility newspapers are afforded. Sure, we fulfill the watch dog mission of keeping an eye on local government. A community newspaper provides a daily snapshot of history. No organization does it better. To do our job we must be respected and trusted. We have to be important and relevant, and that requires we have authoritative sources. Our editors and reporters must check and validate everything we place in the newspaper and deliver to your door. Certainly the internet and social media have changed the entire world. There is no more breaking news, as most news is on social media before any of us become aware. However, readers require that newspapers not only get the story but that we get it correct.
Many school kids visit the offices of Rome News-Tribune and other newspapers we have served. Like me, they all love the printing press. When I have the opportunity to speak with them I tell them if they are looking for a career that allows them to make a difference for their hometown and individual people, to consider newspapers.
Building relationships to achieve goals has been important in my life. Many of you have helped me in numerous ways and I am thankful for your support. If you are an advertiser, subscriber, reader, community leader or a friend I thank you.
I have been fortunate to spend my entire career in a profession very important to the community it serves. Young people today may not have the same opportunity. Technology has changed every profession in our world. Some of that change is good and some is not so good. Rome News-Tribune has adapted and delivers advertising, news and entire print editions online and across social media.
It has been a long time since I asked Harry Reeves for a paper route. I am glad his response was yes.
Otis Raybon is the publisher of Rome News-Tribune and is retiring at the end of this year. We will miss having him in our offices every day.