Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grateful for the Good Guys

Coming out of journalism school and newspapers, I'm prejudiced. I think we should be occasionally thankful for those with insight, drive, luck and courage to report and photograph people and events that become fixed in our minds.

I thought of this again in July when I read that my erstwhile chum Lee Lockwood had died at 78. He had all those virtues I listed. Even those born when he was older and those who don't recall his name remember his work, including:
  • In-depth interviews with the likes of Fidel Castro and Huey Newton
  • Coverage of Vietnam War brainwashed Navy flier Richard Stratton
  • Numerous articles, essays and photo essays in Playboy, Time, Life and elsewhere
  • Books on political figures, including Castro, Eldridge Cleaver and Daniel Berrigan
  • Countless photographs that documented his times
While he died in Florida, he live in Newton for many years. I recall picking him up at his house, which was rich with some of his pix on the walls.

Pic note: It's odd to illustrate anything on Lee without using his own stuff. However, this uncredited image from his Cuban visit when he wangled the Castro interview was in his NY Times obit.

I think of Lee as the good guy dedicated to his joint profession of writing and shooting. He was a real journalist. In fact, on that trip that I recall best, we headed off to UMASS/Amherst to try to inspire future Lee Lockwoods.

They had a little conference for journalism students, a dwindling species even in the 1990s. We showed up as representatives from the National Writers Union.

On the drive, we swapped more stories of the awesome and awful. His had far greater impact and mine were more typical of domestic newspaper types. For example, I had FBI agents following me and breaking into my apartments, a sheriff patted his gun and let me know, "You write lies 'bout me, boy, and you be in big trouble," and as white editor-in-chief of the black weekly in a Southern city, I confounded a governor and others.

In front of the students, Lee's dramatic recollections and my more mundane ones did seem to captivate the room. On the way back, we both said we wanted to believe that we inspired them a bit, at least enough to keep them from the Dark Side of PR and advertising, where the money is.

Lee loved his profession and was damned good at it. I'm thankful he did his do, from which we all benefited.

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