The others who were welcomed to the
J-School list of luminaries were Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden, who was
a reporter for a few years before he became a political powerhouse, and New York
Times reporter Jere Longman, who credits fellow Hall of Famer Jim Featherston as
The Hall of Fame is big enough that
Holden and Featherston are rubbing shoulders in the shrine. Before he died in
2000, Featherston, a Pulitzer Prize winning professor at LSU, was sued by a
student named Melvin Holden. The
30-year-old case is vivid to many this day with respected journalism
practitioners like Errol Savoie and Mike Dunne on opposite sides.
Kudos go to Dean Jack Hamilton for
ushering both of these talented and tenacious men into the LSU Hall. The
biography of Melvin “Kip” Holden is inspiring to any underprivileged youth
trying to find his way, and James Shoaf Featherston was my favorite curmudgeon
and journalist when he died on Oct. 19, 2000.
My last conversation with
Featherston came a few hours before his death. I told him he needed to go to the
hospital. “I am avoiding that at all costs,” he said. A few hours later, the end
came at his home near the LSU campus.
Tiger Rag founder Steve Myers
recalls the day that Representative Kip Holden contacted him about forming a
similar publication for his beloved Southern University. “We’ll call it the Jag
Rag,” Holden, a Southern Law School graduate proclaimed. The magazine never
materialized, but Holden was looking then as now for a way to bridge the gap
between blacks and whites in his hometown.
Sadly, Featherston and Lynch were
enshrined the year after they died. They would have delivered memorable
acceptance speeches had the honor come a year earlier. Longman was a worthy
inductee, but Peter Finney and John Ferguson deserve Hall of Fame distinction,
Finney is a graduate of LSU and has
been the most recognized sportswriter in the state for years. “He’s the best
writer at the paper,” my former Reveille colleague Alex Martin told me in 1987
when Martin was employed by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Martin, another
Featherston protégé, won a Pulitzer for his work at Newsday a few years
Ferguson is the voice synonymous with LSU
sports from the 1940s to the 1980s. He continues to work with the Tiger Athletic
Foundation and imparts wisdom to those of us who toil in the radio vineyards.
Ferguson’s deep baritone mellowed like fine wine through the years, and his call
of Bert Jones’ last-second pass to Brad Davis to beat Ole Miss in 1972 remains
my fondest Tiger moment.
Ferguson was on the air on Dec. 7, 1941. A few
years ago, he broke his arm in a rain storm and still showed up for a scheduled
interview with me. After the radio chat, Ferguson, LSU Linguistics Professor Hugh
Woodstock Buckingham and I went to Sullivan’s to continue the discussion.
went to the hospital, and his arm was placed in a cast.
In addition to being the Voice of
the Tigers for four decades, Ferguson received frequent national
broadcasting assignments and doubled as the Voice of the New Orleans Saints for
a few years. He and Joe Dean teamed to become one of the best basketball
broadcasting duos on record.
Joe Dean turns 75 this week, and
looks like he could still hold his own in a street brawl. “I love a good fight,”
Dean once told a reporter. To those who know him well, Dean is an ambassador for
the Ole War Skule and his state. He adopted Louisiana as his home when he arrived at LSU
as a freshman in the fall of 1948.
Dean has survived the death of his
wife, Doris, and surrendered the leadership of the LSU athletic ship in 2001,
but he remains active as a consultant and is a deal maker extraordinaire. Dean
will be remembered for hiring Nick Saban and for keeping Skip Bertman and Pat
Henry, the two most successful coaches in LSU history.
The Tigers endured six straight
losing seasons on the gridiron from 1989 to 1994. Dean weathered the criticism
for hiring Curley Hallman by keeping the budget in the black, and Gerry DiNardo
brought the magic back for three seasons.
Firing DiNardo was Dean’s most
gut-wrenching move. Dean was following orders from Chancellor Mark Emmert when
DiNardo was pushed out in 1999. Rather than wallow in defeat, he then hit the
road and found Saban through an old contact, Sean Tuohy, the former Ole Miss
basketball standout from New
Saban is gone, but his impact will
reverberate through the bowels of Death Valley
for a generation. If there had been no Joe Dean at the helm, Tiger fans likely
would have been deprived of Saban’s brilliant ride through TigerTown.
As he celebrates three-fourths of a
century of life, an appropriate salute to Dean would be for the LSU brass to
name the athletic administration building in his honor. It was his idea to bring
the Tiger family together, and this edifice is a testament to his
Jim Engster is a featured columnist in Tiger Rag, plus
the general manager of WRKF-FM in Baton
Rouge where he serves as the host of the “The
Jim Engster Show,” a daily talk show
in the capital city. Jim can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.