Clarence Graham, for many years, was in the spotlight as editor of the News Journal.
Every Thursday, people anxiously waited for his column to hit the street. If you were mentioned, be certain people would let you know. And soon … and this was in the days before cell phones or the internet.
Heck, I remember some of the employees — while the deadline clock was anxiously ticking — standing at the light table, elbow poised on the glass, reading Clarence’s every word.
This community hung on Clarence’s every word.
But the spotlight is something Clarence never sought.
He was a private person.
But he knew it came with the job.
In the public eye, Clarence was stern and, to some, unforgiving. He painted the picture with the sharpest of brush strokes.
If you screwed up, he’d let you know.
But for those who worked with him, he kept things in the family, so to speak, our News Journal family.
If you did something well, he’d be there to pat you on the back or leave you a re-assuring note signed the same way every time.
He would, however, make certain you knew doing well was part of your job. He expected the best out of all of us.
Clarence is the reason — for better or worse depending on your point of view — I am where I am and I do things the way I do. I think most people who have been around here a while know that … or, at least, get the connection.
He was meticulous in his work. He expected the same of me, others in the newsroom. His expectation of perfection was pounded in to me from Day 1 in February 1987. You write a cutline a certain way, not just some time, but all the time. I still do it that way.
When we’re on deadline, I was no longer the sports editor. I was a News Journal newsroom employee and had to take a death notice or a Grange notice and get it ready for the paper.
Clarence wasn’t asking anything of us he wouldn’t — and didn’t — expect of himself over the years.
While Clarence was a taskmaster, he also loved to have a good laugh. Many times, when deadline had past and early work on the next day’s paper began and some of us had returned from lunch at the Little Giant, we sometimes got slap-happy. Between the newsroom and composing room and the pressroom, we had many a great time.
Clarence was right in the middle of some of those. On occasion, he started it. Most times, he just sat back and enjoyed a laugh with the rest of us.
But when it was time to work, he worked. And wanted others to work just as hard. No matter the reason, he expected you to give an honest effort. One time, after pulling an all-nighter to get out a local preview section, I went to my apartment next to Allen Studio and crashed.
So hard, I missed an assignment the News Journal had covered every year without fail. Clarence, in no uncertain terms, let me know that was not acceptable. Not for any reason. He did this in front of others in the newsroom. He was mad. The maddest I’ve ever seen him and it was directed at me.
I’m sure he got calls about “why wasn’t this in the paper?”
I felt so small.
When he left the newsroom, after my verbal whipping, it was never brought up again by him. I mentioned it a time or two in future years; we both chuckled. I don’t know that he remembered it. I don’t think he kept those things locked away. He was a tell but don’t dwell kinda boss.
For me, Clarence’s biggest contribution to my tenure at the WNJ will forever be the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame. Back in the early 1990s, during my second and still ongoing tenure at the News Journal, I was concerned with the present. Just keeping up with daily results was enough of a workload
But Clarence always mentioned Phil Snow or Gary Williams or Dean Cluxton or some name out of the past and their accomplishments. I had no clue on any of them.
I began looking at old News Journal’s from back in the 1960s when I had to take my turn at doing a 25 Years Ago brief. Those names Clarence enthusiastically uttered and their feats suddenly came to life in words and pictures.
I thought, “We had someone play football in the NFL? And AFL? And CFL? And WFL? Yep and it was just one guy, Mike Wilson.
I was stunned. As a baseball history buff, I loved the old stuff. But Clinton County history? Not so much. Until then.
So I asked Clarence if, during the summer months when things were a little slower, I could stick my head in the microfilm machine and research Clinton County sports history. Not just for the 25 years ago piece, but for whatever might come of it.
He wholeheartedly said OK, but don’t let your daily work fall behind, he added.
To make a short story long (I’m good at that), my research discovered so many great Clinton County athletes and sports people in general that a way to honor them seemed like the right thing to do. Thus the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame was born.
I don’t know if this column honored Clarence. In the end, it doesn’t matter. He wouldn’t have wanted me to do it.
But these are some of my memories after a few days of dealing with his death. He meant the world to me — and so many other News Journal alumni.
I know he was aware of those feelings but wouldn’t have wanted the attention.
Sorry, CG, you deserve it and more, so much more than these words can ever express.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email email@example.com or on Twitter @wnjsports