On Friday morning, four of us Enterprise-Journal lifers — LeWair Foreman, Margie Williams and Matt Williamson were with me — went over to Hartman-Jones Funeral Home to sign a book of condolences for Randy Hammons.
Randy, who was the sports editor here for 16 years — which is probably a record for a very demanding job — died last weekend at age 64 from an aneurysm. He had recently retired from the Meridian newspaper.
Randy’s sister Karen, who was the first manager of Edgewood Mall when it opened in 1987, had called Monday to let me know of his death. We had a good conversation about his many years at his hometown newspaper.
Before taking the sports editor’s job, Randy covered ballgames for us and then was a sports writer in the late 1980s, which I believe is the only time we had more than one sports employee. His affiliation with the paper probably ran for more than 20 years.
Karen, I presume, set up a really nice tribute to her brother in a corner of the lobby at Hartman-Jones. All four of us, when we looked at it Friday, cackled at the dominant art in the display.
It was a black-and-white picture from the 1990s of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. I remember very well when Randy went there and actually took part in the festival, because we ran a picture on the front page and said he was in Pamplona.
But I forgot that somebody in the office had taken his mug shot and pasted it over the head of the guy in the front of the photo, who was only a few feet in front of three or four bulls.
The display also included Randy’s column about his trip to Pamplona. That is one thing the guy loved to do — travel.
When I was in charge of the newsroom in the 1990s, I learned quickly when Randy had a vacation in mind. He’d pop into my office and say, “Let me ask ya this!”
Typically, this occurred in mid-December, and he wanted the week off between Christmas and New Year’s so that he could attend a bunch of college football bowl games.
This often was a problem because someone else had already asked for the same days off. But we usually worked out something to get him on the road for a few days.
Randy may not have been so good at vacation planning, and he regularly struggled to master anything new about computers.
If I’m telling the story honestly, he occasionally inspired complaints from coaches who felt their teams were being under-covered. Even worse were the calls I’d get from fans who were sure — incorrectly — that he was biased against their school.
Having said all that, it was easy to overlook the strengths that Randy brought to the job of sports editor. The main thing, and it is essential for anyone who wants to do well in their job, is that he truly enjoyed covering local sports.
Randy excelled at reporting what occurred on the fields and the courts. He could tell a good game story and did a good job interviewing coaches and players. I always liked his “Player of the Week” stories that ran each Wednesday during football season.
It also helped greatly that he grew up here, and he had been in the job for a while, so he knew the schools and the cast of characters very well.
This, of course, occasionally lent itself to humorous moments. Once in the late 1980s, before he was sports editor, he asked for, and received, a Friday night off during football season.
The sports editor told me the next week that he was covering a game — and up walks Randy, oblivious to the fact that his presence implied he could have covered that game while the sports editor went to another one.
But I get it: Randy wanted to go to a game as a spectator, not as a reporter. The only other things that he enjoyed as much as sports were his travels and attending criminal trials at the courthouse in Magnolia. Well, maybe his cigarettes, too.
Randy left the Enterprise-Journal in 2006 to start a boxing publication in Florida. A few years later he returned to Mississippi, working at several newspapers before his well-earned retirement.
His nickname in our office was “Rambo,” and that was a good fit, because he could be as single-minded as the Sylvester Stallone character — or as one of those bulls in Pamplona.
Randy worked the long hours and always tried to do right. He was a good guy and a good sports editor who made the Enterprise-Journal better.