"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Walking with giants...an old newspaperman's and prof's honor

"There were giants in the earth in those days..."   --Genesis 6:4
There still are, and I am pleased and honored to be asked to walk with them when I receive the Milt Phillips award a week from today at the annual Oklahoma Press Association convention in OKC.
Not much of a giant here, just an aging former weekly newspaperman and college professor, who has been blessed.  I am proud to be a newspaperman, a journalist, and blessed to know these Oklahoma journalists, and thousands of students  at OSU and UCO in more than 30 years who have inspired me and kept me thinking young.  It's been my pleasure and fortune to combine newspaper work with teaching. The experience is a two-way street that makes me a better teacher, and a better journalist.
Literal translation of "giants" in the King James version is more like "people of renown, of power, of influence." When I got the phone call from friend and OPA president, and UCO alum Robby Trammell earlier this spring, I was dumbfounded. 
The Phillips award is OPA's highest, and in its long history since being founded in 1979, I will be only the second college professor to be so honored. Previously it went to my last mentor and friend Harry Heath at OSU, who forgot more about journalism than I know. I never dreamed I'd walk in that company.
All the other awards have gone to newspaper people, except one--to the late great Ben Blackstock who built OPA into the national model of press associations, and who was responsible for me coming back to Oklahoma years ago.
I've gone through the list of previous honorees, and know or have met about 25 of them. Many are friends. I am humbled and honored...walking with giants. I'm in tall cotton. 
"My people"
I do know, as I tell  my wife, that I'm most at home at OPA conventions, talking with newspaper people. I tell her, they're "My people."
I didn't know Milt, though I was newspapering (that's a Clark verb) here when he was alive, but I know his son Ted and his grandson Stu, who publishes the only all local news daily in the state. 
It's many miles and years from walking the sidelines covering high school football for the Waurika News-Democrat, and there are too many people to thank. I'll mention only my late partner Donald J. Morrison of Waurika. And obviously my families, who are my main strength, and who are most important.
                   Here's the scoop on the Phillips Award, from the OPA website.
Milt Phillips
The H. Milt Phillips Award is the highest honor given by the Oklahoma Press Association. The OPA Board of Directors selects the recipient based on publishing a high-quality newspaper; contribution to the profession and the newspaper industry; years of service to the community, state and nation in a variety of volunteer activities and strong love and dedication to the family.
The award was established in 1978 by the OPA Board of Directors to recognize those they felt gave the same quality of service to family, community, country and newspapers as had H. Milt Phillips.    
"Honored by many, regarded by others, feared and disliked by the crafty and corrupt," is the way ‘Cluttered Corner’ Phillips was described by those who founded the award.   
"Phillips was the kind of editor all editors should be," they wrote. "He was involved. He gave freely of his love and concern..."   
H. Milt Phillips purchased the Seminole Producer in April 1946. Prior to beginning his newspaper career, he served as department adjutant of the Oklahoma American Legion and as editor of the Oklahoma Legionnaire.   
He served for two years in the Navy during World War II and, after returning home, was appointed by Gov. Robert Kerr to reorganize war veteran services in Oklahoma.   
Phillips became general manager of the Seminole Producer in 1946. In 1950, he and his brother Tom purchased the two newspapers in Wewoka and merged them into one publication. When Tom Phillips was diagnosed with cancer in 1955, the brothers sold the Wewoka paper. Milt Phillips and his son, Ted, then consolidated the two Seminole papers to form the Seminole Daily Producer.   
Phillips was active in the Oklahoma Press Association, holding several offices including president in 1954.   
He was widely known as a civic leader and statewide industrial booster. Phillips was a long-time member of the board of directors of the Oklahoma Historical Society and was the moving force in the historical society’s efforts to microfilm all Oklahoma newspapers.
And here's the list of previous honorees.
2014     Joe Worley, Tulsa World

2013     Ray Lokey, Johnston County Capital-Democrat

2012     Willis Choate, Marietta Monitor

2011     Tim Schnoebelen, The Mooreland Leader

2010     Gloria Trotter, The Countywide & Sun

2009     J. Leland Gourley, Oklahoma City Friday

2008     Tom Muchmore, Ponca City News

2007     Wayne Trotter,  Tecumseh Countywide News

2006     Joe Hancock, Hobart Democrat-Chief

2005     John D. Montgomery, Purcell Register

2004     Ken Reid, Weatherford Daily News
2003     Bob Peterson, Durant Daily Democrat     

2002     Robert E. Lorton, Tulsa World     

2001     Don Ferrell, Lincoln County News     

2000     Dave Story, Claremore Daily Progress     

1999     Jim Mayo, Sequoyah County Times     

1998     Ted Phillips, Seminole Producer     

1997     Ed Burchfiel, Cordell Beacon     

1996     Larry Hammer, Cherokee Messenger & Republican     

1995     Larry Wade, Elk City News     

1994     Joe W. McBride, Jr., Anadarko Daily News     

1993     Francis Langdon, Tonkawa News     

1992     D. Jo Ferguson, Pawnee Chief     

1991     J. L. Jennings, Donrey Newspapers     

1990     Jenkin L. Jones, Sr., Tulsa Tribune     

1989     Dr. Harry Heath, Oklahoma State University, Journalism Professor     

1988     Jim Bellatti, Stillwater NewsPress     

1987     Ben Blackstock, OPA Manager     

1986     Jim Pate, Madill Record     

1985     Bill Ansley, Elk City Daily News     

1984     Milo Watson, Perry Journal     

1983     Bob Lee Kidd, Jr., Poteau News & Sun     

1982     Charles Engleman, Clinton News     

1981     Allan W. Muchmore, Ponca City News     

1980     Ed Livermore, Sr., Sapulpa Herald     

1979     James C. Nance, Purcell Register  


  1. Wow, what an honor and well deserved in my opinion. Congratulations Terry.