Corner Column

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To the Monitor’s readers in Mineola and across Wood County, I am bidding adieu. An opportunity takes me elsewhere in East Texas.

As the recipient of many kindnesses – large and small – I have enjoyed my stay in Mineola.

During my time at the Monitor, I estimate I’ve written 225 news stories – mostly out of Mineola. I’ve reported on talented artists, young inventors, innovative teachers, career education, politicians, festivals, public affairs, bus stops, criminal and civil justice and even a softball player who finally hung it up at age 86. I’ve written about winemaking, new cycling trails, bobcats run amok, high school graduations, the local music and theater troupes and the Harry Meredith Special mini train.

I tended to enjoy assignments in which I saw the best in people.

Among my favorites was the dedication of the R.C. Hickman historical marker earlier this summer at the site of the old Bar 20, not far from the Addie E. McFarland Center. I’m a sucker for history. Hickman’s mother, Cora, ran the Bar 20, a popular spot for kids who attended McFarland before integration came to Mineola. After moving to Dallas as a boy during the Great Depression, Hickman became an official U.S. Army photographer during World War II. He went on to have a stellar post-war career as a photojournalist who chronicled the civil rights movement as well as everyday African-American life in Dallas, Kansas City and elsewhere. Now here I was, chronicling his induction into the annals of Mineola history.

A group of young Mineola historians and their teacher spearheaded the effort to recognize the Bar 20’s significance to the city, and Hickman’s timeless contributions to the state’s and nation’s historical record. The marker is the 17th for which the Junior Historians are responsible. At the McFarland reunion/Hickman dedication I saw county historian Lou Mallory for the first and last time.

Two-hundred and twenty-five stories will give a person some perspective.

From what I’ve seen, Mineola has many fine features – its Civic Center, League of the Arts, Iron Horse Square, Memorial Library, Historical Museum, Nature Preserve and charming downtown to name a few. I regard the city as a generally safe place with a transparent and competent municipal government and school district. Quitman, too, is a nice, hospitable town, with a downtown square on the rise, Jim Hogg Park, Wood County Arboretum, the Stinson House and an abundance of friendliness. With its beautiful lakes and woodlands, Wood County overflows with natural splendor. From Hawkins to Lake Fork, it is a lovely place.

Like other places, however, Wood County has its share of strife, much of it centered at the courthouse. Not all, but some county officials, it seems, have acted at times in pure self-interest or behaved in a manner unbefitting of their offices. Also, the county is wrapped up in a number of tangled legal messes, which will ultimately cost the taxpayers a boatload of money in legal costs. The taxpayers and voters of Wood County deserve better and should demand the highest ethical conduct and professional standards of those who occupy positions of power and public trust.

The readers of the Wood County Monitor should take heart in knowing that, in my humble opinion, their local newspaper is among the best in the region at covering matters of local concern.

I’m sure Larry Tucker, a veteran newsman from Quitman, will perform admirably as the new editor. John Arbter will continue making important contributions in sports and in other matters of public interest, and Zak Wellerman will go forth with his fine coverage. Backing them all up is seasoned pro Phil Major, the paper’s publisher. So I leave a paper in the hands of dedicated and well-qualified people.

So long Mineola and Wood County. I’ll see you again soon.

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