Columns » John Brummett

My own hall of fame

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Dear Rich and Famous Persons named Stephens and Hussman and others associated with a foundation named for Don Reynolds, all currently or formerly graced with substantial and valuable holdings in Arkansas newspapers:

Please allow me to begin by quoting myself from my blog -—that’s — the other day. Then, I have a proposal.

Here goes, quoting myself, only for the convenience of establishing context:

“Well, it looks like the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame is going to get another hundred grand in taxpayer money from the General Improvement Fund for — well, whatever the heck it wants. This is not a public agency. The appropriation doesn’t even restrict the expenditure to development of the outfit’s museum displays under eternal development in the Alltel Arena, a potentially worthwhile tourism purpose — but one that could be funded by this cultural committee handing out grants from real estate transfer tax proceeds, the ones they don’t want the homeless to get for housing. This bill just hands over a hundred grand to a group that exists mostly to honor aging ex-Razorbacks with an annual cocktail reception. The outfit now has a foundation to raise money privately, but that mustn’t be going too well, thus the taxpayers are forced into the breach. Sen. Mary Anne Salmon of North Little Rock filed the bill, and, just now on the phone, didn’t exactly overwhelm me with reasoning to justify such an appropriation. She got asked to put it in. The museum would be in her town. It’s ‘Arkansas.’ Blah. Blah. Blah.”

With that, gentlemen, here’s my proposal: We need an Arkansas Newspaper Hall of Fame with an accompanying Hall of Fame Museum, ideally housed in the River Market somewhere between the Old State House and the Clinton Presidential Center.

We continue to hear that newspapers are threatened with extinction by this Internet madness. Surely we could and should endeavor, in light of that, to preserve newspapers’ heritage.

Our state happens to be blessed with rich newspaper history. The first newspaper west of the Mississippi River was started here, then, in 1958, copped a Pulitzer Prize for brave reporting and editorializing on the Little Rock integration crisis. Then, in the 1980s, it got embroiled in a great newspaper war and ended up getting killed by one of you, who, frankly, is kind of famous in his own right for being a local guy who won a newspaper war with the corporate giant, Gannett, to which the aforementioned prize-winner paper had been tragically sold.

I envision an inaugural class posthumously installing William Woodruff, Spider Rowland, J. N. Heiskell, Harry Ashmore, Orville Henry, John Robert Starr and myself — well, except that I would still be alive, presumably. I’m hoping to get this thing up and running in three years, at which time I would be 56. I feel pretty good at the moment, knock wood.

I offer to get out of this columnizing business at the appropriate time to serve full-time as executive director and board chairman of the Hall of Fame and curator and board chairman of the accompanying museum. I propose to do so at a salary that will depend on how much I can wrangle out of the Legislature through the General Improvement Fund in 2009.

No, we will not be a state agency or represent any vital purpose for taxpayers, but that doesn’t seem to make a damn. I’ve had two legislators say they’d put in a bill for me, if for no other reason than to get me out of the columnizing business. I’m thinking $200,000 ought to cover my opening salary, benefits and travel, so long as I don’t travel much.

Here’s where you come in: If I can land that two hundred grand from the taxpayers, would each of you commit to endowing these enterprises with whatever sums are necessary to secure suitable office and museum space and underwrite the costs of amassing materials for exhibits, and the erection thereof, and for our annual drunk, by which I mean installation ceremony?

If so, I promise to get y’all enshrined the second year.


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