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Sherrill reflects on 25 years at Standard
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I’ve been asked to sit down and write out a few thoughts to mark my silver anniversary here at the Southern Standard – a plateau, I’m told, that has rarely been achieved in our newsroom.
I began as crime and courts writer on March 4, 1990. I remember it vividly because it was one of the last times I wore a tie to work. It was also on that day, while trying to be the “cool kid” in the newsroom I was thrown from my chair, bucked out like I was riding a bucking bronco and spilled onto the floor before the entire staff. I learned never to lean back in my chair again.
For some reason I recall the first story I ever did. It was about two hunting dogs that had become stuck in a cave way out in the middle of nowhere. You could hear their barking from above ground, but finding them in the dark subterranean labyrinth was something that seemed to be impossible – that is until some guy rolled up his sleeves and slithered underground to pull the dogs to safety.
As for personal columns, I began writing “Taking a Stand” within a few months of starting here. The idea for the name was from former sports writer Jackie Wilson. My first controversial column saw numerous merchants camping at the office door of then-publisher Ron Fryar calling for my head when I did a column called “Let’s Eradicate Mall Rats.”
The column was about how young street thugs were being allowed to hang out at the mall on weekends without adult supervision, often to harass the public. It was then I found out folks actually read my column. By the way, there are no more mall rats so take what you will from that.
The column morphed into political satire which eventually saw me run for President of the United States in 1996. I got seven write-in votes in two counties but came up short of defeating Bill Clinton by a few million.
Eventually my political satire got so repetitive and blah that I couldn’t even stand reading it myself. However, in the meantime my wife Janice and I had begun raising a family so I decided to begin writing social humor. After a few months of the new genre, editor James Clark arbitrarily changed the name of my column to Family Guy. I didn’t notice this change for several weeks. Go figure. The change, however, reinvigorated my personal columns and I quickly garnered state awards for humor column writing.
One of these awards came for an ill-fated enterprise called “Ask Duane” in which I offered to answer questions about local things – a smaller version of Mr. Know-it-All. The problem was no one ever sent in a question, aside from one person. But, as luck would have it, I lost that single question. It got so sad staff members were anonymously sending in letters to Ask Duane to try to make me feel better. The column failed but the humor of its failure won me best humor column that year.
Along with my personal column, those who like wrestling know I’m also the writer of “No Hold Barred” which is a weekly wrestling column, mainly dealing with WWE. On the weekend I also dabble in the business myself, serving as Commissioner for Tennessee All-Pro Wrestling at the old cheese plant.
My most recent enterprise is becoming an author. I’ve published three books – “Red Dog Saloon,” “Average Joe,” and “Friday Night Frights” – (all available on Kindle, Amazon or right here at the Southern Standard).
I can’t finish without naming my most memorable moments here at the newspaper. The biggest stories are things you would expect like the Jennie Ducker case and, of course, the Pamela Rogers case. The most invigorating was when I rolled into Dibrell just as a tornado was tearing through the area, narrowly missing being slammed by the F2 twister. The funniest story was the case in which a man, charged with drunk driving told the judge his dog was driving the car when he was pulled over.
However, when you get down to it, 25 years have flown by. I’ve got more stories than I could tell in a week of talking. I guess that’s why I write books now.