Forever Our Managing Editor

Tom English Jr. With His Wife Judy

No matter what we may achieve in life, there’s always someone who encouraged us, believed in us and helped us along our way.

            For me, an aspiring journalist who was “just a kid cub reporter” hoping to fit in and find his way at a fledging morning newspaper, that person was managing editor Tom English Jr. The Fayetteville Times launched on July 2, 1973, with skilled and experienced newspaper folks to include Harry Abernathy, John Pittman, Luke West, Dennis Rogers, Dennis Patterson and the late Roy Parker Jr., the late Larry Cheek, the late Bill Scarboro and the late Add Penfield Jr.

Tom English Jr. was 30 years old, and our publisher Ramon Yarborough hired him out of the Florence Morning News in South Carolina.

           He was a newspaper’s leader.

               He wasn’t your typical managing editor. He was dapper in his gray suits and neckties, and expected us, too, to represent our newspaper and our Fayetteville Publishing Co. as professional journalists and nothing less.

            He didn’t leave us “to put the morning editions to bed” on our own and head home at 5 p.m. He was there with us from the daily news budget meetings until the old Goss press rolled and roared in the early morning hours.

            He taught reporters to be fair – to always give both sides of a story. To doublecheck our facts and to be honest. To be journalists of impeccable integrity. To always be at our journalistic best.

            He believed in me, and in what I could one day be. 

            “Your column on Aunt Ethel was delightful,” Tom English Jr., now 78 and residing in Greensboro, sent a text message recently regarding my column in our October issue of CityView Magazine. The column was about my late Aunt Ethel, who went berserk at my Uncle Danny’s funeral in 1965 at Cypress Presbyterian Church and embarrassed the McNeill family clan from Moore County. 

            Make no mistake about journalists.

            We like validation, and a letter or an email or a phone text or a phone call of praise or gratitude always is welcome. Criticism, too.

A Leader Among Journalists

            When Tom English Jr. left the newspaper after its merger in 1990, I begged him not to leave.

            “No, Billy,” he told me, “I’m a leader. I’m not a follower.”

            He taught me something about leadership, too.

            “You don’t fire people if you can help it,” he once told me. “You try to save people, and their careers.”

            More than 50-some journalists would go on to work with me as an editor, and because of Tom English Jr., I never terminated a single one, and I’m proud to tell you so.

            Ramon Yarborough and Charles Broadwell were the best publishers any journalist could work under, and Tom English Jr. was the best managing editor. He believed in a cub reporter, a kid, if you will, looking to find his way in journalism.

Epilogue

            When Tom English Jr. lost his father, I was there. When he lost his mother, I was there. When Bill Kirby Jr. lost his mother, Tom English Jr. was there at my front door.

            I always believed in him.

            And Tom English Jr. always believed in me.

            Not only me, but in Fayetteville Times journalists to include Greg Barnes, Mike Arnholt, Dennis Rogers, John Pittman, Dennis Patterson, Lorry Williams, Seth Effron, Harry Abernathy, Rick Tapscott, Tommy Horton, Penny Muse Abernathy, and photojournalists Johnny Horne, Cindy Burnham, Cramer Gallimore and Steve Aldridge among the many. 

            He’s an avid CityView Magazine reader and laments that newspapers have faded into the sunset as Corporate America leans to digital marketing news.

            “Nicely done,” he wrote about the Aunt Ethel column, when Aunt Ethel made quite a spectacle of herself in 1965 at Uncle Danny’s funeral.

            There can be no higher compliment than from one who was there long ago to help, to encourage and to believe that a young journalist’s tomorrows could be all they could ever be, and Tom English Jr. will forever be my managing editor.

            Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961