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Bill Kirby Jr.: Sharing a long journalism career with the Hill Toppers made my day

Along Breezewood Avenue, our CityView editors and reporters have meetings to cover, places to be and stories to tell


You will know many of our Hill Toppers, Judy Dawkins was assuring me some four months ago. She wanted me to speak to the seniors luncheon group at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church on Westmont Drive in Haymount and to talk about my long journalism career.

“As you know, I have always enjoyed reading all of your articles for The Fayetteville Observer and now for CityView,” she said in an email in late June. “You put your heart into your words, and they flow out onto the paper. Thank you for sharing yourself with our community.”

And she wanted to know if I would speak to the seniors group on Thursday.

It’s nearly impossible to say no to Judy Dawkins, and anytime I can talk about CityView Magazine or our CityView digital publication, I will always be front and center to let anyone know about what we’re doing along Breezewood Avenue. And just for the record, when Judy Dawkins calls, you just as well mark the date on your calendar.

“So, yes, I am a reporter, and reporters ask questions,” I began on Thursday where there is excitement in the church with a new senior pastor and the pastor’s wife and the Singing Christmas Tree kicking off on Dec. 1. “So, how do you like your new pastor?”

They are ecstatic that the Rev. Blake Benge and Beverly Benge are at the church. The Rev. Benge offered the prayer at Wednesday’s CityView Power of Giving awards luncheon at Segra Stadium, and you would have thought he has been in this community all his life. Blake and Beverly Benge will be good for Snyder Memorial Baptist Church and this community.

From the newspaper to CityView

Judy Dawkins was right about the Hill Toppers and that I would know just about every one of them. Larue Cooke, Carolyn Armstrong, Sybil West, Bob Bryan, Wayne and Sue Byrd, Faye Highsmith, Bill Jackson, Kris Caison, Teresa Johnson, Jack McGinley and old friend Gary Wilson were among them.

“I’ve written countless stories throughout this community, and many of those stories about many of you in this room,” I couldn’t help but say of my 52 years as a journalist.

Forty-nine of those years were at The Fayetteville Observer, where I reminded them that you could not have worked for a better publisher than Ramon Yarborough and, later, Charles Broadwell.

“You will never go wrong working for Ramon Yarborough,” I told them about my Mama’s words when I first went to work for the newspaper. “And Mama was right.”

I enjoyed telling them about CityView Media, where we have many of our newspaper colleagues that include Lorry Williams, our managing editor; Bobby Parker, our assistant editor; Greg Barnes, our investigative reporter extraordinaire; and Michael Futch, our city government reporter. And before that, Kim Hasty.

I was proud to tell them about Tony Chavonne, our publisher, who gave so many of us a second chance in our journalism careers with his passion for keeping this community abreast of the news. I was pleased to tell them of our awards from the N.C. Press Association for Greg Barnes’ in-depth look at the attempted sale of Fayetteville PWC and the evening when the city tried to prevent CityView from staffing a City Council meeting.

“Those press awards validated our journalism mission all the more,” I would say.

My favorite column

I told the Hill Toppers about my favorite column of March 2, 2018, for the funeral of the Rev. Billy Graham and how I argued with the newspaper’s executive editor, who wanted to use a reporter from a newspaper in Gastonia to cover the story.

I admired Billy Graham.

I loved, as a youngster, watching Billy Graham’s televised crusades.

“I’m covering the Rev. Billy Graham’s funeral,” I told that young executive editor, who I had hired years before, “and that’s all there is to it. I’m going to be at Billy Graham’s funeral.”

The Hill Toppers, I could see, liked the story.

And I told them about how the sun was setting in Charlotte that March 2, 2018, afternoon when the column was written, except for the last paragraph that was such a struggle and writer’s block was setting in with deadline near.

And what it meant when a column’s end suddenly was so clear.

“Imagine what it must have been like for the Rev. Billy Graham,” I recalled the column’s end, “and for his once blind eyes to see the face of God.”

The Hill Toppers, I could see and I knew, would like the story.


I reminded the attentive group that Robert Van Geons, president and chief executive officer of the Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corp., will be their next guest speaker in January.

“But no one enjoyed this day or felt more welcome,” I wanted the Hill Toppers to know, “than me.”

And that along Breezewood Avenue, we at CityView have more stories to tell about this city, county and community that all of us call home.

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

Fayetteville, Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, Hill Toppers