Recently I was honored to receive the Herman Helms Excellence in Media Award from the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
Having known and worked with the former sports editor of The State paper in Columbia, I was humbled to be mentioned in the same sentence as a journalist I greatly admired.
From my viewpoint as a cub reporter, I watched Herman take on tough topics – like the need to get rid of USC football coach Pau
l Dietzel and, later, the much loved Gamecock basketball coach Frank McGuire.
In both cases, South Carolina fans attacked Herman personally, tried to get him fired, taunted him on the street, and threatened his children. Sports writing, you see, is a full-contact sport in the Palmetto State.
When this soft-spoken gentle man received some serious death threats, SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) offered body guards to protect him when he walked in and out of USC games, but he declined the gesture. It’s just sports, he waould say, lighting up a cigar and pounding out another great column on his manual typewriter.
Herman, you see, was part of that class of sports writers I call the Gentlemen Sportswriters who wore suits and ties to ball games. Guys like Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dan Foster at the Greenville News, Ron Green Sr. over in Charlotte, and many others scattered about the country.
As a member of the next generation, I studied their manners and tactics and dignity and humor and dedication to the job, and hoped some of it would rub off on me. Over four decades those names began to disappear from the page and ours slipped into their well-worn shoes.
I only hope we lived up to their expectations, and perhaps passed a little along to those behind us.