The Mississippi Press Association Convention is always a highlight of the summer.
It has been since 1987 – my first full year of working at a Mississippi newspaper, The Itawamba County Times.
Rubye Del Harden, then the owner and publisher of that weekly newspaper, urged me to get involved in MPA and through the years I’ve built the best of friendships with my colleagues across the state.
A couple of weeks ago, I renewed those friendships and started some new ones, too.
One of the first persons I ran into at the hotel July 6 was Tim Kalich, publisher of the Greenwood Commonwealth. His hair and mine have grayed at about the same pace during our long tenures in the newspaper business.
Pam and I reminisced about a visit to Hattiesburg many years ago for an MPA board meeting and a dinner we enjoyed with Tim and his wife Betty Gail.
We cherish that memory and tons more through our involvement with MPA.
This year’s convention was a very special one because of the two Hall of Fame inductees.
Inducted were Carolyn Wilson, who served as executive director of MPA for 22 years, and Will Norton Jr., founding dean of the Meek School of Journalism & New Media at the University of Mississippi.
Wilson joined MPA in 1982 and was promoted to director in 1985. She retired in 2007 after leading the organization to new heights during her leadership.
Norton served as chair of the Department of Journalism at Ole Miss from 1977-1990 and returned in 2009 to lead the Meek School, which has experienced tremendous growth in enrollment.
Both Wilson and Norton have been great promoters and supporters of community newspapers.
Norton, in his acceptance speech, recognized two of his good friends and two of the best community newspaper folks this state has ever seen – the late Gale Denley (Calhoun County Journal) and the late Jesse Phillips (Oxford Eagle).
These three men brought me to Holly Springs 16 years ago. And for that, I will forever be thankful.
Now, Harden, Denley, Phillips and Norton are all in the MPA Hall of Fame. I can brag that I have been around and learned from the best during my years in Mississippi.
Another huge highlight of the convention – Dillon Day, a recent Potts Camp graduate, won a first-place award in the Best Sports Action Photo category. I surprised him the Sunday I returned, and the look on his face was priceless.
Pam, Andy, Erin and I also found plenty of time for food and fun while in Biloxi July 6-8 for the MPA convention.
I think I put away about two dozen oysters on the half shell, plus more seafood. It’s always one of my favorite things about visiting the coast. We also made our first trip to MGM Park. It’s the home of the Biloxi Shuckers, the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s hard for us to pass up baseball on any trip.