Roy Exum: Skywriters, Friendships and a Bucket List

Saturday, July 12, 2014 - by B.B. Branton

Every sports writer who ever worked for Roy McDonald Exum back in the day at the Chattanooga News Free Press understood the five keys to being a good writer.

First - be first and be accurate ... "we are a daily (not a weekly) newspaper so get the story in the paper," Exum would say.

Second - be fair

Third - hold 'em accountable

Fourth - get as many names in the prep football story as possible and spell the kids' names correctly .. "because grandmothers buy our paper,too," Exum stated

Fifth- Beat our competition every chance you can

Thursday night at the Tennessee Sports Writers Hall of Fame dinner at Cumberland Univ. in Lebanon, the Lookout Mountain native, who was inducted along with longtime Nashville writer Larry Woody and Knoxville News Sentinel writer John Adams  into the Tennessee Sports Writers Hall of Fame, elaborated on No.4

"We had this one young writer who put 36 players names in his football story which was great. But the only problem was there weren't 36 guys on the team roster," Exum said with a laugh.  "We liked his enthusiasm, but he just got a little carried away."

"X" as his friends call him, also made it clear that while you are in a competitive business to get the big scoop and great story, the friendships one makes over the years with coaches, athletes, parents and other writers are, well, priceless.

"I feel like the man in the New Testament who wanted to see Jesus, but couldn't get in the front door so his friends let him down through a hole in the roof by ropes," Exum stated.  I'm that guy who has been helped by so many friends for so many years."

Yet, hall of famers Joe Biddle and Adams will tell you Exum's friendship to them is priceless and with much humor.

"Roy took me to my first Kentucky Derby and I thought we might meet a few people he knew," stated Biddle, the long time Nashville area sports columnist. "Well, you would have thought Roy was D. Wayne Lukas (hall of fame horse trainer) as everybody, and I mean everybody, there knew Roy. It was incredible and eye opening to say the least."

Adams told a similar Masters episode.

"When we got inside the gates at Augusta National, you would have thought Roy was part-owner of the place as he knew all the waiters, barbers, as well as big time execs and all by first name."

Skywriters: "X" had the great opportunity to be on the college football tour each August prior to the season as writers from all over the South flew from campus to campus (SEC schools) from the late 1960s to early 80s. Thus, the group became known as the Skywriters.

"It was the great era when a ticket was known as a ducat, cagers was slang for a basketball team and writers were known as scribes. It was typing (sometimes on a manual typewriter) faster than one thought possible on deadline after a double overtime game on Saturday night.

"We all wanted the best and most interesting story at each school we visited, but after we all had filed our stories each night, we hung out together, sometimes long into the night, and lifetime friendships were formed over those many years," said Exum.

"I have not seen Joe in 15 years and Larry in 25 (prior to Thursday night) so to be inducted into the hall is great, but having dinner with these guys and other hall of famers and telling old stories is the best part."

Roy's Bucket List: After his induction speech, Exum was asked what his bucket list is for the near future.

A guy who has covered the World Series, Kentucky Derby (25), The Masters (25), the Final Four (8), the Summer Olympics and has seen football games in the L.A, Coliseum and Notre Dame Stadium and all the great places in the South, he kept his requests fairly simple.

"I haven't been to an SEC football game since I left the paper (1999) so that is on my list. But actually, I look forward to making a concerted effort to renew so many old friendships, watch my grandkids grow up and then the one at the top of the list - make it to heaven," he stated with a smile.

At the end of the night, this statement was made.

"Do something for somebody each day to make a difference in their life."

Through his seemingly endless columns and stories over the years, Roy McDonald Exum has done just that, as well as taking a chance and having great insight to see potential (when no one else did) in a young kid looking for his start as a writer. Even one who couldn't type, but would eventually be a national award-winning writer.

contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@comcast.net

 


CCS Ends Season At 25-4 After Loss To Upperman, 64-46

Chattanooga Christian led at the end of the first quarter and the half, but wound up losing 64-46 to Upperman High School in regional quarterfinals on Saturday night. CCS led 13-11 at the quarter and went into the intermission up 31-25. Upperman was ahead 41-39 by the close of the third quarter and had a fourth quarter surge to win going away. The Bees' big second half ... (click for more)

PHOTOS: McCallie Knocks Off Pope John Paul II, 67-48

Signal School Study Says Under Own School System Much More Could Go To The Classroom; Lennon Says Getting Land, Buildings A Major Issue

A panel studying a new school system operated by Signal Mountain concluded that much more money could go directly into the classroom, helping students further increase their potential.   However, County School Board member Kathy Lennon said how the town would be able to acquire the land and buildings is a major issue.   A group of Signal Mountain residents ... (click for more)

Man, 39, Shot Late Friday Night In The Vicinity Of North Chamberlain Avenue

Police said a 39-year-old man was shot late Friday night in the vicinity of North Chamberlain Avenue.   He was identified as Ruben Williams Sr.   Officers with the Chattanooga Police Department were informed just before midnight that a shooting victim arrived at a local hospital via personal vehicle.   Officers made contact with the victim who advised ... (click for more)

CVB Should Share Financials With The Home Folks

The recent debate over the Convention and Visitor's Bureau's funding and budget has gotten ugly. A Hamilton County commissioner has asked questions and made comments about the CVB. The director of the CVB has organized a campaign to dismiss the commissioner's questions and comments. The children on the playground are choosing sides and nothing useful seems to be happening. It's ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Trump's Latest Delight

I was quite amused this week when Donald Trump’s administration “locked out” several news organizations from the daily press briefings at the White House. The reason I loved it because in the 50 years I have spent in the news business, I have been locked out of press conferences, too. To be truthful, I am a longtime veteran of a bunch of “you versus me” squabbles and, if I do say, ... (click for more)