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July 28, 2016

The Joys of Journalism

Harry M. Covert

For a moment, why not talk about some good things in the land of liberty? It can be done despite the free-for-all enveloping in every section of America, excluding our compatriots to the north and south.


No matter how vociferous the differences, there are lots of good stories worth mentioning. I have one.


One late summer afternoon in 1969, when I enjoyed heavy doses of vim and vigor and adrenalin, a couple of political types dropped by my newspaper office. I was almost too busy to interrupt writing a cop story. A young squirt had been arrested for excess speeding and rather drunk as a coot. He was in the police lockup and angrily started ripping the porcelain privy out of his cell wall. There were no stainless steel facilities available then.


Somehow the boy started throwing broken porcelain rocks through the cell and broke outside windows. Quite a kerfuffle, and he refused to stop. I knew I had a great story. Possibly I'd have a front-page byline.


The shift commander talked nice and firm at first. That didn't work. The boy hurled a fast ball at the captain. I was there, watching eagerly. I knew this was going to be a good news day.


Captain Champion drew his service revolver, all could hear it being cocked, and these words boomed throughout the cell block down to Judge Carmel's courtroom: "One more toss you little brat and you're dead." We all knew this was something and that the commander would indeed shoot. So did the boy. Moments later it was all over. Well, I got a good story.


Back to my typewriter and copy paper. We didn't know about such things as computers. I managed to load the paper in the typewriter carriage when these two blue-suited people barged into the office.


I should point out Democrat politics was the order of that time in Virginia. Republicans met in phone booths, as was the joke of the day, almost true. Reporters didn't pay much attention to them.


The people that day were hand-shaking with the office staff busy writing. They were nice and polite. Linwood Holton and his escorts finally got to me. Introductions were completed and amid the pleasantries he was confident he would be the next governor of the Commonwealth, and the first Republican since Reconstruction. For the young today, that was the period after the War Between the States, y'all.


I didn't hesitate and being courteous, probably a bit overly so, addressed him this way, "Governor, can I get an exclusive interview a couple of months after you're in office?" He didn't hesitate. "Yes, sir. You can count on it."


Sure as he predicted A. Linwood Holton, Jr., did win the election much to the absolute shock of the ruling class. He became the 61st governor of the Commonwealth and did a good job.


Here's the rest of the story. A few months later I phoned his office. My call went to the press secretary, of course. He was a bit perturbed, really dumbfounded, and said no way could I have a sit down exclusive with the governor. The political reporters won't like it. "Please ask him if you don't mind," said I.


Moments later the date was set. Governor Holton didn’t hesitate and kept his promise. We had a good talk and I had a story. He also wanted to know the result of the boy throwing porcelain out of his jail cell. I noted the judge sent him home to his dad who promised a licking with a belt.


Since then I've always had a warm feeling about Governor Holton, not because he was a Republican or Democrat, but because he was then and is still an honorable man at 92.


I might point out that his daughter is a former Virginia judge and most recently the state’s Secretary of Education.


Her name today: Anne Holton Kaine. She will become a national figure over the next few months. Her husband is currently a Virginia U.S. Senator, former governor, lieutenant governor, mayor and Jesuit missionary.


Sen. Tim Kaine is a nominee for vice president on the Hillary Clinton ticket.


Solid qualities of people in the molds of the Holtons and Kaines always come to the top.


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