Published Friday, March 01, 2013
ST. SIMONS ISLAND – Time spent with friends is the best of times.
When an invitation comes from Jim and Anne Minter to take respite at St. Simons Island, we find ourselves resonating with the drive down Georgia 15 through the sleepy towns and the changing rural scenes along the way. The Minters often show up at their second home a couple of times a month. I’d say they have an addiction for St. Simons. Anne walks the beach. Jim reads at least a book a week -- sometimes two.
Jim, who enjoyed a fine sports writing career for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before becoming editor of the AJC, is very knowledgeable about the sporting scene, but when it comes to being a fan, he is second fiddle to Anne. Never demonstrative, never bent on firing a coach or sending a moving van to his home, Anne enjoys Georgia football as much as any Bulldog fan I know — but quietly and lady-like. She abhors boorish behavior. She wears red, but tastefully and smartly. She root, root, roots for the home team, and if they don’t win, it is truly a shame. A fine pianist, her favorite musical rendition is the chapel bell ringing into the night.
Jim and Anne have lived in Fayette County for years, a refreshing life down on the farm where Jim loves riding his John Deere tractor, planting a garden, cutting hay and keeping things tidy. He fixes fence, fishes in his five-acre pond and cuts firewood for the winter.
At St. Simons, when Jim reads, he can see and hear the ocean rolling ashore. At home in Fayetteville this time of the year, he turns the pages of his latest book by an indolent fire. He grew up on a farm and considers life at its best when he can read a well-written piece of non-fiction by the flame of seasoned wood cut from his property — with a glass of Jameson’s Irish whiskey in reach.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Jim covered college football for the Atlanta Journal in its heyday. It might be Alabama-Tennessee or it might be Ole-Miss and LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rouge. The Journal laid claim to “covering Dixie like the dew.” Many subscribers across the South bought the newspaper because of its unparalleled football coverage. Jim not only was a well-known contributor to the AJC’s expansive coverage, he was part of its design and structure.
The coaches always enjoyed seeing Jim come around — Wallace Butts, Georgia; Shug Jordan, Auburn; Frank Howard, Clemson and Bobby Dodd, Georgia Tech. It was easiest covering the Yellow Jackets, but more of a challenge when he went down to Auburn or over to Athens. In Athens, you covered practice, wrote your story and sent it to the newsroom by Western Union; then go to dinner with Georgia publicist Dan Magill, drive home and sleep a few hours before heading to the office by 5 a.m.
“Even though it was a hard routine, I always enjoyed coming to Athens because of Dan Magill. He was clever and innovative. There were times in the ‘50s when Georgia really needed a man like him,” Jim says.
When Georgia fell on hard times in the 1950s, Magill fought for coverage and was never a shrinking violet when he thought that the Bulldogs didn’t get a fair shake in the AJC.
Minter recalls a telephone conversation with Magill in the mid-1950s that was classic Magill. He told Minter, curtly and caustically, that, “If Captain Bobby Garrard dropped dead of a heart attack at practice today, the headline in the Atlanta papers would say, ‘Bobby Garrard quits the team.’”
People don’t seem to read books like they once did. People don’t appreciate newspapers. The most troublesome thing is that too many people are wasting their time on technology’s trash and trivia.
I like Jim Minter’s world, where books will never be extinct.