Dick Hudson, a lasting influence

April 9, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

Longtime readers of the Charleston Daily Mail may remember Dick Hudson, whose career in the sports department spanned from 1935 to 1970.

Dick Hudson

Dick Hudson

Our current sports editor, Chuck McGill, wrote about Hudson just last summer. The elder sports editor was turning 100 years old and gave Chuck a great, vivid interview. As Chuck pointed out, Dick Hudson’s bylines appeared in the Daily Mail during five different decades.

We’re sorry to report that Hudson died last week, the same day the Charleston Daily Mail put out an edition celebrating 100 years of publication.

“Dick represented the best of what was right about sports,” said one of my own old bosses, Sam Hindman, a former publisher, executive editor and city editor at the Daily Mail.

Here’s Dick Hudson in his own words, excerpted from “Daily Mail Memories” from 1998:

I was a “student” at West Virginia Wesleyan College when Phil Conley, publisher of the West Virginia Review magazine, took me to the Daily Mail for an introduction to Samuel Grady Damron, managing editor. Mr. Conley and my dad, Joe Hudson, were friends.

From that interview I was hired in the summer of 1934 to help during vacations at $7.50 a week. Ted Ramsay was sports editor and Con Hardman his assistant. I covered the Charleston Senators baseball team of the Middle Atlantic League that summer and helped Hardman otherwise.

Ramsay retired to enter the publicity business in Miami Beach and I was offered the assistant sports editor’s job after the first semester of my junior year at Wesleyan. I accepted because I was out of money and sociology courses anyhow. And who could resist a full-time job at $15 a week and be allowed to spend about 60 hours a week on the job?

We had the Saturday and Sunday editions to work on every Saturday which meant a work day from 7 a. m. until about 1 a.m.  Overtime? What’s that? There were two of us in the department with about 18 columns of space daily and about 45 on Sundays. If one member was sick or on vacation, the other was left to handle all of it.

I became sports editor in December of 1939 and George Holbrook was moved from the reporters’ side of the room to sports, where we had a great relationship for many years.

I worked under three managing editors — Mr. Damron, Vint Jennings and Charlie Connor — before resigning in 1970 to work at the Jacksonville, Fla., Journal on the news desk.

Many came and went as aides in the Daily Mail sports department, like Kent Hall (yep, the ex-mayor), Bert Wolfe (auto magnate), Ben Brown, who became an official in New York with the Associated Press after several executive spots in Minneapolis, St. Louis, etc.; John Olesky, who has worked in Dayton and Akron, etc., since his Daily Mail days. Don McClure, who worked in Akron and San Francisco and with the Peace Corps.; Keith Walters, executive on several papers since leaving; Harmon Marks; Bill Jacobs, an influential attorney in Parkersburg; Jack Lewin, who became an executive of some sort with the tobacco industry in Kentucky … and others.

We had later deadlines and none of the modern computers, etc. (thank God) you have today. It was paste, scissors and heavy pencils. We scratched errors (most of them), cut and pasted and were aided considerably by the linotype operators and proof readers.

We didn’t have the personnel to travel very much thus less personal interviews, etc. That’s the big change for the better.

As for writing, Mr. Damron was of the “old school,” as they say, reading almost every proof before the deadlines. He wouldn’t tolerate such phrases as “a number of days” or “he was sick for some time.” He would ask “Just what NUMBER” or “How many days,” etc. Poor spelling drove him wild.

He was a little man, no nonsense, but could be fiery. A local attorney known as “Hogeye” Gordon came in the office raising the devil about some story. An argument resulted and Mr. Damron pushed him down the steps. That night someone threw a rock through the front door. Can you imagine the lawsuits if you’d push a lawyer down the steps today?

My first real interview after joining the paper in 1935 was with a lion tamer. His name was Schneider with one of the big traveling circuses. The reporters were at the dog wagon across the street, or working, and the city editor, Marlin Lundry, told me to interview the lion tamer. He was a nice guy who didn’t think much of Clyde Beatty, the flamboyant and better-known circus lion tamer. Schneider pooh-poohed the danger of the job, unlike Beatty.

Lundry said it was a good interview EXCEPT that my last paragraph should have been the lead. Oh, what the hell!

There were so many “characters” coming and going in those 35 years — with the war, etc. etc. — that they blend into a hazy memory. One eager young guy did a great job and wrote a column, but had trouble spelling, especially when he asked, “How do you spell Jesus … with a J or a G?” He finally found some staffer who knew.

I know you don’t want all this stuff, but here it is.

Another thought:

When I left here in the summer of 1970, Sam Hindman was hired for the sports department. I wonder what Sam’s future would have been had I remained. Who knows?



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