Memory jogged about those who gave me a leg up in life

Some of us are blessed to have true blood brothers. I have three, all younger, and they each can give me a giant case of puffy chest.
If you have friends so cherished that you feel they are truly brothers, then you are doubly blessed as I am.
Sometimes, things happen in life that jog my memory concerning those who have made invaluable contributions to my life.
Two natural brothers — Rigby Owen Jr. and Steve Owen — have been major players for me all of my adult life. I have been in their employment and also in business as a partner with them. What I have gained from their friendship and “brotherhood” is immeasurable. And, thankfully, it continues.
“Big brother” Steve jogged my memory a little deeper recently when he sent me a book about a man — Don Reid Jr. — who was a major influence and helper in my college years.
Don was the longtime editor of The Huntsville Item and had what some would call the dubious distinction of witnessing more men die on death row, in “Old Sparky,” the electric chair than anyone else. His reporting there was for the Associated Press news wire service and his bylines often appeared in newspapers across the country when someone of particularly great infamy was strapped in Old Sparky.
He was an extraordinarily gifted man and his life story is intriguing and much too long for this space. His daughter Donna Reid Vann has written and published a book, Dad, Man of Mystery (Silverfox Books), about his extraordinary life. I highly recommend the book to anyone, whether they have a newspaper connection or not.
My first two years of college were completed in Huntsville at what was then Sam Houston State Teachers College (now State University).
The Item was a weekly newspaper at the time. Don didn’t need much help, but he managed to slip me a little work once in a while since he’d had to pursue his college degree in much more difficult circumstances than I had. Plus, whenever he heard of something where I could pick up a couple of extra bucks, he was quick to let me know.
After two years of college, I ran out of money and tucked my tail back to my hometown to work for a year to save enough cash to finish work on a diploma.
A summer later, I went back to school in Huntsville but discovered I’d “fallen out of favor” with the journalism director or so I was told by an inside source.
Here came Don to the rescue.
“Let’s you and I go to Houston,” Don said. “The University of Houston is looking for good journalism students.”
Don introduced me to Bruce Underwood, director of the journalism department, and to Billy I. Ross, assistant director. They gave me a job as a secretary-receptionist for the department five mornings a week. That also included job placement for students, as well as producing a weekly column from Texas newspapers of the 1860s, 70s and 80s — The Texian Editor’s Frontier News Flashes — and syndicating it to about 150 Texas community newspapers.

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