Posted on | November 28, 2012 | 5 Comments
The Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune reports that my former colleague and good friend John Willis has died of a heart attack at age 63, quoting publisher Otis Raybon, “John was a mentor for many young and upcoming journalists and will be missed by many.”
When I first met John in the late 1980s, I was sports editor of the Calhoun (Ga.) Times and he was working for a weekly regional business journal that had been purchased by News Publishing Company, parent company of the Times and several other newspapers in Georgia and Alabama. We renewed our acquaintance in 1991 after I was transferred to the company’s flagship daily Rome News-Tribune, where John was business editor. He was one of a handful of reporters for the Rome News-Tribune who made it to work on the day of the Great Blizzard of 1993, and gave me a ride to the office after my car got stuck in the snow.
In addition to his excellent all-around skills as a journalist, John had the cynical sense of humor and talent for sarcasm common to great newspapermen, and his ascerbic wit made him a cheerful and much-loved newsroom presence. We often traded lines from our favorite comedies, including Blazing Saddles and Animal House.