Stories from Blackshear caught the ear of the famed newsman

 

Sitting in a crowded cafe the other day, I overheard two ladies reminiscing about the late radio legend Paul Harvey.

It was 10 years ago this month when the death of Harvey brought sadness to millions, and the end of an era in broadcasting. His fame, obviously, lives on. Harvey’s staccato delivery and upbeat persona created a niche in broadcasting many imitated, but none matched.

Harvey was known, of course, for finding humorous and unusual snippets of news, combining them with his wit and sprightly delivery. His broadcast, sprinkled with opinion, became a daily staple for millions. Radioman Troy Mattox once told me that Harvey’s newscast was “by far the most popular programming” on local station WKUB — as it was on airwaves across the country. Many here heard Harvey speak in person around 40 years ago to a packed chamber banquet in Waycross. Word was he received a $30,000 fee, an unheard-of sum then.

I still have the fax number that went right into the small studio Harvey utilized for many years in Chicago. I sent him perhaps three or four local stories over the decades. At least two of those stories aired on his popular broadcast, creating chuckles that radiated around the world.

My favorite involved one of our former Black-shear residents, long deceased, Theo Frisbie. Theo, a former county surveyor, was a crusty, curmudgeonly old soul with a brilliant intellect and a wonderful sense of humor. Back in the 1970’s, Theo was a Republican when being Republican wasn’t as cool as it is these days.

Just on a lark, Theo decided he would qualify to run for the GOP nomination to become chairman of our county commission. No one took Theo’s candidacy seriously, least of all Theo himself. And, back in those days, it wasn’t unusual to have only a handful of Republican ballots cast in that primary. Everyone was a Democrat back then. (As an aside, local politics hasn’t really changed, only the label has.) Theo had no opposition in his race, so it looked like he was in good shape until the November general election. 

Except for one tiny detail.

All the contested races back then were in the Democratic primary. Theo, thinking his election to be secure, didn’t even bother to cast a ballot for himself.  

Trouble was, no one else voted for Theo, either. In fact, no one voted in the Republican primary at all that year! And, you have to get at least one vote to get elected.

So, despite having no opponent, Theo still lost his race.

Harvey thought it was hilarious to hear about the man who ran unopposed — and lost! After my fax hit his desk early that morning, he shared it with millions of listeners .

The other story I know Harvey used was several years later. It told of a local man, around 80 years old, slightly injured in a traffic accident. Our brief news story detailed how the elderly man was slightly hurt, but treated and released to the care of — his mother! She was 101, if my memory serves, and they lived together, both doing suprisingly well for their ages.

Our world still needs to hear such stories, but no one could pick up the mantle to follow the inimitable Mr. Harvey’s talent for spinning such yarns.

Guess you could say social media fills the gap, but not with anywhere near as much charm.

• Robert M. Williams, Jr. is Editor & Publisher of The Blackshear Times. Email: rwilliams@theblacksheartimes.com.

Robert M. Williams, Jr. can be reached at rwilliams@theblacksheartimes.com.