The Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s most important leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.
The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.
For a list of all the winners go to: http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.
The following is the 14th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Bill Lumpkin was the 1997 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.
By Gene Duffey
Bill Lumpkin learned early in his career that working for a newspaper would not make him rich. He started working for the Birmingham Post at age 15 for $16.50 a week, including overtime. And then, while a student at Alabama and stringing for the Post, he was asked to cover the opening of a rubber plant in Tuscaloosa.
It cost Lumpkin 20 cents to ride the bus to the rubber plant and back, plus 5 cents to buy the newspaper the next day. The Post paid him 5 cents an inch. After he turned in a 15-inch story on the rubber plant, the paper ran only two. He lost money on the deal.
Lumpkin’s mother, Clara, worked at the Post, first as a switchboard operator and later in the business office.
“You’re not going to sit on your butt all summer and play softball,” Clara told her son in the spring of 1944. “Get down to the paper. They’re looking for an office boy.”
Bill began as a copy boy. His duties included calling the weather bureau and writing two paragraphs for the front page. “I couldn’t put a sentence together,” he said. Later he started writing a radio column called “Timely Tips for Nightly Dial Twisters,” which amounted to pasting up the releases that the radio stations mailed to the paper. He also filled paste pots, went out for coffee, ran copy to the composing room and did other “go-fer” jobs.
Oddly, Lumpkin also had a paper route, delivering the competition, the Birmingham News. “I don’t know if they knew,” he said of his bosses at the Post. “They probably didn’t care.”