Word came as a text message from my sister-in-law, Phyllis. A proud mama if ever there was one, she had news about my niece. “Y’all check out WITN website when convenient. Good, good news!”
Good news is always welcome, so I went online to connect with WITN, one of two main television stations in eastern North Carolina. And there she was, my Allison Parker Edwards, in a news story reporting that she had led the charge to secure a $96,920 grant from the James J. and Marnie Richardson Perkins Trust. The money will be used to expand the media center at Wahl-Coates Elementary School of the Arts in Greenville, where Allison is the media center coordinator.
That’s what they used to call the librarian. Back when you used the Dewey Decimal System instead of Google Search. Back when news was printed on paper and delivered to your driveway every morning rather than emailed to your inbox.
OK, I’m showing my age. Never mind the number; trust me, it adds up quickly.
But back to that $96,920. Maybe it’s not an earth-shattering number in this day, but it’s roughly four times the annual pay that Allison’s granddaddy — my daddy — was making as a veteran Highway Patrol trooper in the mid-’70s.
It’s a big deal. It makes an uncle proud. No prouder than I am of Allison’s two brothers, Barry and Adam, mind you; all three have grown to be amazing people. Those boys I used to shoot hoops with in the backyard grew to be heartwarming and loyal friends to their dear old uncle and, now, they’re equally loving and devoted fathers of their own.
My own sister, Jan, was and would be equally proud of Allison and her brothers, but I have to presume that Jan would be cheering on Allison in an extra special way. Jan believed in equality in every part of life, and she would be so happy to see Allison’s success as a brave, compassionate and get-it-done woman. It’s the kind of opportunity that Jan fought for in the back rooms and on the front lines of North Carolina politics.
. . .
Which brings me to Lorry Williams. I met her in December 1999, the month when we all were wondering whether we’d make it past the stroke of midnight and move precariously into a new century. That’s when I joined the Fayetteville Observer newsroom; Lorry had been there for 11 years already.
For newcomers like me, Lorry was the one to turn to for inside information on “Fed-vull,” as she unapologetically pronounced the name of her hometown. What you soon knew about her was she had a commitment to journalism and to the notion that, above all, you get your facts straight. She didn’t seek the limelight or maneuver for the next promotion, but she was steadfast in her determination to hold public servants accountable and own the headline on the next day’s front page.
She loved country music and line dancing, and I’m told she could work a pair of cowgirl boots.
Most important, perhaps, was her talent for mentoring those young journalists who passed through the newsroom and challenge them to do the right thing on their way to making a difference.
Lorry made a difference. For me, it was as simple as trading recipes or acknowledging that new shirt and tie. Or as complex as making me feel not done yet by calling me back to work with her not once, but twice, in that second home we called a newsroom.
I think of my sister, Jan — gone now almost a quarter of a century — when I think of Lorry. They both loved their Carolina Tar Heels; they both loved music and books. They both wanted purpose, and they both would never let you down.
I am forever in awe of their strength.
And when I see young women like my niece Allison following in the path of my sister, Jan; and I see women journalists taking cues from trailblazers like Lorry Williams, I realize the importance of leading by example.
As the new editor of CityView, I hope only that I can do Lorry Williams proud. Those are some big cowgirl boots to fill.