My dad, Byron Crawford, just a few months shy of 30 years at this newspaper as Kentucky columnist, decided to hang it up in a parting that was amicable but bittersweet.
I was away from the phone when he called to tell me the news, but I laughed when, after explaining what was going on, he signed off a voice mail with these words, “Been nice workin’ with ya.”
Well, it has. It was not a fringe benefit that I thought much about when I returned to this paper in 2000 after eight years away. My dad and I hardly worked “together.” He worked from an office in his home in Shelbyville, I have worked out of one in my home, and in whatever arena or stadium I was headed to next.
But particularly after I was named a columnist in August of 2006, I suppose we have talked more frequently and at more length than at any time in our lives. Maybe it’s because we have reached that age where it’s just what you do. But I suspect that filling the same column hole on the same day — even if in different sections — gave us an additional kinship. And one I’m grateful for.
I’ve said before that once my dad called it quits, no one would ever do what he did for this paper again. Its audience has changed. And the world has changed. He’s a product of this state and a life and time that not many people share. Though I grew up with him, I do not share it, though that background is something I have had more appreciation for as I’ve grown older.
The late CBS newsman Charles Kuralt said of my dad, “When I first met Byron Crawford, he was reporting ‘Sideroads’ stories on WHAS-TV in Louisville. I was drawn to him by the fact that his shirttail was hanging partly out. He didn’t care so much about how he looked on television; he cared a great deal more about the subjects of his stories, the farmers and fiddlers and country store proprietors of rural Kentucky and Indiana. At the time, it was practically unheard of for a television reporter to be more fond of his subjects than of himself, and it is still rare to this day.”
In his writing, he rarely took center stage, though on the few occasions he did turn inward for columns they wound up being some of his most popular. His writing showed his sense of a story well-told, and no matter how small a space the columns were confined to, he still managed to find a way to do it.
I could say many things, but I hardly think they’d be better than the hundreds of notes he’s gotten from readers and friends.
I just wanted to add mine to the pile. I’ve always been proud to be his son. But I’m also grateful that I was fortunate for a time to be his colleague.
Congratulations, Dad. It was nice working with you, too.