I was sorry to hear of the death of former Cascade School / Bell Buckle principal Marvin Whitaker, a fine man.
It is actually Mr. Whitaker who gets some of the credit (or blame, depending on whom you are) for me winding up at the Times-Gazette.
In 1985, what I had thought would be an exciting opportunity working for two of my college professors had fallen through and I had moved back home to Bedford County, tail between my legs. I had taken a few journalism courses as part of my mass communications degree, and I decided to apply at the Times-Gazette. Chris Shofner had not yet officially been named editor, but he was doing the job, the previous editor having just quit. Chris talked about how short-handed the newsroom was, sounded delighted at the prospect of hiring me and took me in to meet the publisher, Franklin Yates.
Mr. Yates gruffly informed me that the newspaper had no openings at the moment. I left my résumé but I was dejected. I wondered what I'd done to offend him.
Meanwhile, Mr. Yates didn't bother calling any of the references I'd listed. Instead, he noted that I had graduated from Cascade in 1980 and called Marvin Whitaker. Mr. Whitaker, at the time, was the lay leader at Bell Buckle United Methodist Church, part of a three-point charge my father was pastoring. Mr. Whitaker probably told Mr. Yates that I had hung the moon and several of the major stars. Mr. Yates called me back in for a second interview a few days later and I started on the Monday after the Independence Day holiday weekend.
That was 25 years ago this year, by the way.
Anyway, Mr. Whitaker was a fine man, and a fine educator, and he'll be missed.