By Bill Williams
I came on the Gastonia scene in June, 1950, as meek as the fallen dew but confident that there is more out there than what I had seen.
Dave Gillespie was managing editor of The Gastonia Gazette. I was a graduating senior at Duke, major in English, and I figured $45 a week was not a bad beginning, especially since Dave had gotten my bride, Betty, a job with the welfare department at $50 a week.
Dave became a good friend and confident. He was smart and knew the local scene. He wanted to know more. He wanted to be a city councilman, possibly even more than that. Gazette Publisher J. W. Atkins didn’t want any of his news people running for office. He didn’t want to chance any coloration of news presentation such as might occur in certain instances.
Dave won the fight for city council, but the next day he heard from “Mister J.W.” that Dave no longer was managing editor of The Gazette. Fired that day.
That was 63 years ago, and that was my initiation into the world of politics. About the same time, I started writing a personal column called “Things you auto know.”
The column came out on Saturdays and found interest in local auto dealerships, windshield fixers and grease monkeys. I knew there was a challenge so I did my best to keep every word hanging like a sack of cement on a murdered body at the bottom of a river. (You get the drift.)
The editors seemed to like what they read and let me spread my wings; eventually they let me write the column full time under the name of “That’s Life.”
Years have passed. Among other things, I was editor for 22 years.
There was a time when Gazette Reporter Garland Atkins and I went off to Washington to cover the installation of John Kennedy as U.S. President in 1961. We froze our tails off.
We sat on the 12th row from the speaker’s stand in 20-degree weather.
Famous Poet Robert Frost was asked to rise and read one of his poems. He rose and was having trouble with the strong sunlight and his weak eyes. He got too close to the candle flame and his paper caught fire. He was rescued by a nearby federal judge who doused the flame. Great decision. Mr. Frost then repeated the rest of the poem by memory. A sterling performance.
Garland and I went back to the hotel and thawed out. Then, back home; and glad to get there.
Dave Gillespie closed his Gaston Citizen after three years and worked for several other North Carolina newspapers. He died several years ago after finishing a stint with the Raleigh News and Observer.