Being hit with unwelcomed news is not the best way to start the day, especially if the sun has yet to rise. Very early on Tuesday morning, I learned that Bob Martin, our retired publisher, passed away.
Bob’s death is a loss for many, many people. Montgomery will miss him. His beloved State of Alabama will miss him. His life touched many others throughout the years.
My memories of Bob will not be those of the last few years, where he has been stationed away from society due to illness. I prefer to look back to yesteryear and remember the fun and the successes.
I met Bob in 1999. He needed someone to cover sports in our market. I was looking for a second career after twenty-something years of the coat and tie grind. I remember telling Bob I wasn’t necessarily looking to make a ton of money – I had done that, and happiness was not always part of the package. I wanted something to do that I would love to do every day, and preferably without a coat and tie.
Bob asked me if I liked sports, and I responded affirmatively and reassured him that my knowledge was adequate. I didn’t know at the time that Bob loved sports, especially baseball, which became a common bond between us. He asked me what else I liked and said I liked to study government and politics. Bob said he thought we would get along fine. Then he said the one thing I will never forget. “You won’t make a lot of money newspapering, but you sure meet a lot of interesting people. You learn a bunch and it’s a lot of fun.”
I said, “Sign me up.”
Note: “Newspapering” was a word that Bob made up, I’m convinced of it. He would use that word when we talked about business.
I will always remember the first thing Bob taught me about our business. “Faces and names,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. Oh yeah, and always keep film in the camera.” That was before film became obsolete. He told me how important a photo was when we placed an article about young people. “You will find out how much the momma’s and grandmomma’s love you when you put a picture of the young ‘un in the paper,” Bob explained. Sure enough, in a few short weeks, a mother showed up at the office and wanted to buy a few extra copies of the paper because her son’s picture was in the Independent. Two days later the grandmother of the young man showed up and she wanted to buy twenty copies of the paper! Believe me, that is a lesson I have long remembered.
Bob would sit in front of his computer at the office all day and read every opinion piece from around the country. But what he enjoyed, probably more than anything, was scouting for cartoons to use in the Independent. He would spend hours and hours looking at cartoons. Several times on those days I could hear Bob down the hall, roaring with laughter at a cartoon. He would often holler at me and say, “Art, come look at this one. It’s hilarious.”
Less than a year after Bob and I met we started something new, a monthly sports magazine, an award-winning publication featuring local sports in Montgomery. A few short years after that Bob and I started another newspaper, The Millbrook Independent, which served that community successfully where I live for thirteen years. While I retained some of my duties at the Montgomery Independent, I ran the Millbrook Independent until we sold the newspaper in late 2015. Bob and the Martin family asked me to come back to the Montgomery Independent on a full-time basis because Bob wanted, and needed, to slow down.
Throughout those years I learned a great deal from Bob, and it wasn’t just because he was my boss. He was my mentor and most of all, he was my friend. Bob became much like a big brother and that is the way I will always view him.
I will miss my friend and my big brother. I do, however, find great comfort knowing that Bob is forever cradled, loved, and protected, in the loving arms of God.
If Bob could speak to me now he would say just “Do me proud and go on newspapering.”
I will, Bob.