Remembering a friend and mentor

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Much has been written in the past two weeks about the career of the late John H. Taylor Jr., his fine work as a writer and editor at The News Journal, his civic leadership at the Delaware Public Policy Institute, and his dedication to social justice and improving the quality of life for everyone in Delaware. I can do little to embellish those tributes, but I do want to acknowledge John’s tremendous impact on my own career.

I started at The News Journal in early 1972 as a general assignment reporter, and John was the primary education reporter. Occasionally I would be assigned to cover school board meetings, and John did his best to brief me beforehand on what was likely to occur.

A month or two into the job, John asked me to help him judge entries in a high school journalism competition. I didn’t feel qualified to judge, but his confidence in me was among the first instances of encouragement I received in my new career.

A few months later, John took a new assignment in the newsroom … and, with only six months experience, I was chosen to succeed him as the chief education reporter. It became my good fortune to become wrapped up in the courtroom coverage of the Wilmington school desegregation suit — monumental litigation whose impact is felt to this day in Delaware.

Twice more after that, John would get new assignments, and each time I was asked to take on his former role. Thanks in large part to his tremendous mentoring, I proved that I was up to the challenge.

After six or seven years at the paper, the pattern changed. I no longer recall the circumstances but John moved into a new position and I stayed where I was. In the end, it worked out well for both of us.

But the moral of the story is clear today, even if I did not recognize it at the time: you may follow in one’s footsteps for years, but you cannot expect to match such excellence forever.

Thanks, John, for all you’ve done for me … and for all whose lives you’ve touched.

 

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