On Jim Minter, a newspaperman with the right stuff

Loran Smith's picture

JST. SIMONS ISLAND – While Jim Minter was making his way from sportswriter to editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, his wife, Anne, found compatibility with real estate sales.

After sons Rick and Rob entered high school, Anne had more time for work and eventually owned a very successful real estate agency. Jim always had a knack for finding a good story, and Anne knew a good real estate deal when she saw one, which led to the purchase several years ago of a condo at St. Simons.

It has become a beckoning retreat, although there have been times when Jim has had difficulty distancing himself from his 72-acre farm in Fayette County. As much as Jim was a natural fit before a typewriter keyboard in the newsroom, he is, perhaps, more of a fit on his John Deere tractor, pulling a bush hog harrow through heavy brush.

Jim has always bonded with the outdoors and enjoys an emotional high when he climbs aboard his tractor — the same high he gets when he follows a bird dog with a 12-gauge shotgun on his shoulder, topped off by a pinch of Red Man tobacco. Anne, understandably, prefers the beach.

On a recent weekend here, there was plenty of talk about bird hunting and tractors. I, too, am a John Deere aficionado and alumnus. A morning in the fields with a bird dog elicits an emotional and spiritual cleansing. I cherish the times Jim and I have enjoyed that experience together.

Jim is an old friend and a mentor. He has a warm and reserved personality. When he was a seasoned newsman, he was tough when he had to be. He had no reluctance to put an uppity politician in his place. If a crook were on the loose, Jim expected his reporters to catch him, no holds barred in the process.

What gave him the greatest pleasure, however, was a good bird dog story. Or a colorful character pontificating at a hole-in-the-wall cafe in a small town with the best barbecue in the county.

While his reserved personality is without stiffness, Jim never takes the lead in social gatherings. He prefers to “hang back,” as they say. He is a good listener, which was one of the reasons he became a newspaperman with the right stuff.

An avid reader — at least a book a week — Jim has a stimulating memory and an engaging sense of humor. I drove away from St. Simons laughing aloud about the time Jim was running the sports department at the Atlanta Journal when “Live Atlanta Wrestling” was big on weekends.

It became standard for the promoter to send a runner over to the AJC offices on Thursday with the wrestling card for the Friday night matches. On Saturday the runner brought an envelope with the Friday night results.

One Thursday the security guard sent up an envelope, presumably with the Friday night card, to the sports desk. When the envelope was opened, the information contained the winners.

Another gem from Minter had to do with a farmer going to see a certain Georgia governor, asking for a favor. The farmer’s brother had been sent to prison years earlier for a serious capital offense. The farmer petitioned the governor to allow his brother to go free.

After all, the brother had been in prison for years. His mother was getting old, and wanted to see her son home before she died. The farmer was not shy in suggesting that something of monetary value would be tendered if the governor could oblige.

The governor acted astonished. He couldn’t do anything like that but began telling the farmer about an old mule that he had for sale. The farmer asked the governor the asking price. The governor said $1,000, a steep price for the times.

“Why would I spend that much money,” the farmer asked, “on a broken down mule?”

The governor replied, “I thought your brother might want to ride him home from prison.”

[For 36 years the sideline radio reporter for the Georgia Bulldogs, Loran Smith now covers a bigger sideline of sports personalities and everyday life in his weekly newspaper columns.]

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