A moment of silence surely must have been observed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it was reported recently that Jane Scott had died at the age of 92, after spending 38 years as The Plain Dealer’s rock critic in Cleveland, Ohio, before her retirement in 2002. Scott spent the first 12 years of her journalism career at the PD on the society pages, beginning in 1952.
Despite her long celebrated career at Ohio’s largest newspaper, interviewing the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Janis Joplin and Bruce Springsteen, along with a host of other rock icons, the ``World’s Oldest Teenager’’ as she was dubbed, was 83 when she retired from the PD in 2002. Quite a feat by any stretch, but believe it or not, there have been other U.S. journalists who have advanced to age 83 and beyond and are still cranking out stories for their publications.
One of the oldest in the Buckeye state and perhaps the United States is Pershing C. Rohrer of the Record Courier, a daily newspaper in Kent, Ohio (Portage County) who was recognized as Ohio’s oldest working journalist by the Ohio Newspaper Association last year on his 92nd birthday. Rohrer will turn 93 in November. Though retiring from the newspaper in 1989 as a full-time employee-``Persh’’ as he’s known to friends and colleagues, still writes seasonal bowling and golf pages throughout the year that publish in the Sunday editions, according to Sports Editor Tom Nader.
Born on Nov. 11, 1918 in Cumberland, Md. (on Armistice Day, the official end of World War I), Rohrer was named after legendary American Army commander General John J. Pershing and later served briefly in the U.S. Defense industry during World War II.
After the war, his journalism career took root at the Dominion News of Morgantown, W. Va.; the News-Herald of Suffolk, Va.; The Messenger in Athens, Ohio and the Courier-News in Plainfield, N.J.
In 1952, he became the Sports Editor of the Evening Record, which later became the Record-Courier, a position he held until 1958 when he joined the Indianapolis Times, then later the Crescent-News in Defiance, Ohio.
In 1962, Rohrer returned to head the Record Courier Sports Department and would continue in that position for 27 years before retiring on January 1, 1989.
In addition to being recognized by the Ohio Newspaper Association, Rohrer was inducted into the United Press International’s Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1985.
Another U.S. journalist 92 years young at a U.S. daily is Sid Hartman, sports columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, who wrote his first column for the Minneapolis Daily Times on September 11, 1945; and 66 years later, he’s still meeting his deadlines and even can be heard weekdays on radio in the Twin Cities (WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m.)
Journalism school wasn’t quite in Hartman’s DNA. He skipped college; in fact he was a high school dropout and started selling newspapers (the Star Tribune, of course) at age 12; worked his way up to a clerk, then reporter before becoming a full-time columnist.
Instead of wondering who Sid interviewed, a better question might be who hasn’t this celebrated veteran interviewed. The subjects of past columns read like a Who’s Who of high profile sports personalities, including: George Steinbrenner, Bobby Knight, Lou Holtz, Carl Yastrzemski, and former Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant.
According to SI columnist Steve Rushin, who profiled him in 2005, Hartman once followed New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath into the shower to interview him, introduced Bobby Knight to Ted Williams, and drove to the airport with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford after the funeral of Roger Maris.
During his extended career chronicling some of the most well-known sports celebrities in the country, Hartman orchestrated trades for the Minnesota Twins due to his close relationship with team executives; he scooped competitors when Bud Grant returned from retirement to coach the Vikings, attributable once again to his close relationship with Grant. ``Name a major moment in Minnesota sports, and Sid was there and probably had his hand in making the news’’, said Dennis Bracken, Assistant Sports Editor at the Star-Tribune.
Right on Hartman’s heels as far as longevity goes is Ed Pope, sports columnist for The Miami Herald, who has been writing columns at a mad pace for the Herald now for over 50 years, beginning in 1956.
As you might imagine, Pope’s mountain of notebooks have documented some of the biggest stories in South Florida over the last five decades, including being present at the Miami Touchdown Club when Joe Namath guaranteed victory before Super Bowl III. Pope witnessed every one of the Dolphins 17 wins during their historic undefeated season of 1972; he was at the Orange Bowl on January 2, 1984 to report the Miami Hurricanes upset of the undefeated and number one ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers; and later that year, saw Doug Flutie sling a Hail-Mary pass with no time remaining to wide receiver Gerard Phelan to give Boston College a stunning 47-45 win over the defending champion Hurricanes.
Though officially retired, Pope now 83 years-old, still turns out crisp insightful opinions on all the major sports, contributing an estimated 50 to 100 columns a year for the Herald.
While Pope is often recording athletes making history, this legendary sports columnist has made his share of history himself. He became the youngest sports editor in history when he landed at The Athens (Ga.) Banner- Herald at age 15 in 1943. He’s been inducted into a number of hall of fames, including, The Florida Sports Hall of Fame, the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame and football writers wing of the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame; and just last year The Miami Dolphins named their press box the ``Edwin Pope Press Box’’ in tribute to his 54 years of local coverage with the Herald and 45 seasons of Dolphins coverage.
Former New York Post sports columnist Jimmy Cannon once called Pope, `` the best writer of sports in America."
Prior to Pope, another long time veteran at the Herald was Jack Kofoed, a newspaper columnist for 57 years before his death in December, 1979 at the age of 85. He was a columnist for 44 years at the Herald, beginning in 1944; and before that worked at the New York Telegram and New York Post during the 1920’s and 1930’s. All told, during his 67-year career as a newspaperman and columnist, Kofoed authored 13 books (he was working on his 14th when he died), wrote more than 1,200 magazine pieces and some 17,000 columns during an extensive career that began in 1912 at the age of 18 when he landed a sports reporting job with the Philadelphia Ledger. The Philadelphia native’s columns at the Herald could be found on the comic page where in addition to sports topics, he liked to delve into nostalgia and relive the good old days. As Kofoed himself once said, "Oldtimers always think the old days were the best days. I plead guilty."
It would be an understatment to say Kofoed was a little long in the tooth. Former Herald executive editor, Doug Clifton recalls, ``he [Kofoed] was so old and frail news room wags would make book on whether he was going to successfully get from the elevator to his desk without expiring on the way.’’
Just a few months ago, a dark cloud hung over the newsroom at the N.Y. Daily News, when it was learned that legendary sports cartoonist Bill Gallo, 88, died of complications from pneumonia on May 10th, ending a career that spanned 70 years with the News (beginning in 1941 as a picture clerk when he was fresh out of high school) in which he sketched 15,000 cartoons, including the 1971 Joe Frazier Muhammad Ali title match; Thurman Munson’s tragic death in 1979, a number of Rocky Marciano and Joe Namath illustrations, along with regular characters ``Basement Bertha’’, ``Yuchie’’, and ``General Von Steingrabber’’, a character depicted donning a martinet with a spiked Prussian helmet which closely resembled the one-time combustible owner of the New York Yankees.
In 1998, Gallo was awarded the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Cartoonists Society.
Though he came on board right out of high school, Gallo left the paper in 1942 to enlist in the Marines during World War II and saw combat with the Fourth Marine Division in the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.
After the war, he came back to the News in 1945 to work as a caption writer, layout artist and reporter while taking advantage of the GI bill by enrolling at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (now the School of Visual Arts) and Columbia University. Gallo’s first full-scale illustration of two middleweights, George Johnson and Moses Ward, was published in April, 1954; and in 1960 after the death of his mentor, Leo O'Mealia, he was named the Daily News’ sports cartoonist.
Though primarily known for his creative sketches, this multi-talented cartoonist also liked to write about his favorite passion: boxing in which he received the James J. Walker Award from the Boxing Writers Association and the Champions Award from the Downtown Athletic Club. Gallo was also inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Besides writing about boxing, he also chronicled his unsettling experiences in World War II and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
The cross-town rivals of the Daily News, The New York Post boasts of the longevity of Archer Winsten, who was their movie critic for 50 years, beginning in 1936. Winsten died at the age of 92 in 1997; and had been retired since 1986.
As testimony to his keen insight, Winsten’s was particularly proud of being the only local reviewer to give the thumbs up to Carl Dreyer's ''Day of Wrath’’, a chilling movie made during the period of the Nazi occupation of Denmark; and is now considered one of the most masterful black and white films ever made. Winsten was also one of the first reviewers to put his stamp of approval on the of the 1949 classic ''All the King's Men.’’
Despite the long years of perceptive, sharply written reviews, this Seattle native and Princeton graduate didn’t exactly work himself to the bone; which just added another hue to his colorful personality. He liked to rise at noon, play some handball, relax in a hot tub; and by about four in the afternoon head to the movie theaters from his Bronx apartment. He then dashed to The Post newsroom where he would pound out his reviews until after midnight. After leaving the Post, he often liked to end his evening relaxing at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem until almost dawn.
Nice work if you can get it!
Before turning his attention to movies full-time, Winsten wrote a column ''In the Wake of the News,’’, his first assignment when he landed at The Post in 1933, which dealt with all the quirky happenings in the city.
Rounding out the list of long-time employees at U.S. dailies would be motor sports writer for The Los Angeles Times, Shav Glick, who was 85 when he retired in 2006. Glick died in October 2007 at the age of 87 at his Pasadena home of complications from melanoma.
Glick developed a flair for writing at young age; at age 14 he already had his first byline with the Pasadena Post; then covered a variety of sports with the Star-News, the Los Angeles Mirror before being hired by The Los Angeles Times in 1962. He was 48 when he made the transition to motor sports . `` "In 1969, I was suddenly thrust into racing," he once said. "I had no background in racing as such.’’
Despite his apparent inexperience in motor racing, Glick remained on the beat for 37 years, covering everything with wheels on it, including: super speedways, road racing, drag racing midget cars, and even stock cars racing on ice.
As a ringing endorsement to his exceptional reporting, Glick in 1994 was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Novi, Mich., distinguishing himself as the first writer for a general circulation daily newspaper to earn such an honor and joining other notables such as Roger Penske, Tony Hulman, and J.C. Agajanian in the same category.
Aside from his motor sports triumphs, Glick usually caught people’s attention once they learned he was a friend and classmate of Jackie Robinson at Pasadena Junior College. Glick, in fact, chronicled many of Robinson’s feats well before he broke the color barrier in the Major Leagues while a reporter at the Pasadena Star-News. Glick also had the good fortune of watching Ted Williams play high school baseball in San Diego; and once interviewed a 14-year old up and coming golfer who showed plenty of potential: Tiger Woods.
In addition to U.S. daily newspapers, there have also been a number of long-time employees at U.S. weeklies, including:
• Mattiebelle Woods, considered the first lady of the city’s black press, was a social columnist with the Milwaukee-Courier since 1962 until her death in 2005 at the age of 102, and was believed to be the oldest working reporter in the United States. Woods career began in 1952 as a columnist with the Milwaukee edition of the Chicago Defender.
Her column called ``Partyline’’ followed the social happenings of the black community. The list of high-profile personalities she interviewed over the years included: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
• Vera Erickson, who worked at the Molalla Pioneer in Oregon for more than 35 years died in her daughter’s arms on April 16, 2009 at the age of 92. Erickson, a Canton, Ohio native, and a pipe welder at the Swan Island shipyard in Portland during World War II, was a proofreader and columnist, turning out such columns as “Clarkes Highland News,” “Ampersandia,” “The Cookery Nook” and “Library Lore.”
Until illness confined her to bed a month before her death, Erickson showed up at the paper like clockwork every Monday to proofread pages, many times staying late into the evening. And when macular degeneration set in, depriving her of her eyesight, she continued with her proofreading duties using a magnifying lamp.
Erickson is believed to have been Oregon’s oldest working journalist.
• J.S. Moran, Editor Emeritus of the Springfield Sun in Kentucky was a month shy of his 100th birthday when died in 1988. He received extensive press coverage when he was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 1985 on his 97th birthday.
In particular, Moran was known for his award-winning column, ``Through My Bifocals'', a widely read column in Washington County. During his long career as a journalist and outstanding citizenship, Moran directed the care of 400 refugees from the ravages of a flood in Louisville in 1937; he was named writer of the year in 1969 by the Kentucky Farm Bureau, and was a correspondent for the Louisville Herald-Post and Courier-Journals. One of his most memorable quotes which stood as a motto of how he conducted his life was that ``it’s not the high cost of living that’s damaged this country, it’s the cost of high living.”
At the time of his death, Publishers' Auxiliary, a newspaper trade publication, verified that Moran was the oldest working journalist in the country. According to his great grandson Sam Edelen, Moran purchased the Sun, located in Washington County in central Ky., in 1916 for about $1,500 and ran it until 1973, when Landmark Communications (now LCNI ) purchased it and a handful of other small town papers.
July 15, 2011