American Press Managing Editor Bobby Dower. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Friday, July 11, 2014 9:02 AM
Bobby Dower was probably too young when he became sports editor of the American Press at the ripe old age of 24.
It showed, perhaps, when the first official hire he made was, well ... me.
But other than that mishap, Bobby Dower was the rare, contented soul who could truly go to bed every night without a single regret about that day or the one before it or the one before that.
That’s tough to pull off.
Unless every day, whether it’s productive or not, you just do the right thing and to the best of your ability.
It’s not complicated. Work hard. Be honest. Treat people right.
That was Bobby Dower from the first day I met him until I said a final, tearful goodbye at the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
Bear with me. I could go on and on. This is going to be a tough one, but I’ll try not to choke up. Again.
I don’t want to get syrupy.
So I will tell you that Bobby was an unapologetic “cat person.”
There, I got the only flaw I can think of out of the way early. Don’t say I didn’t give it to you warts and all.
He was only two years older than me when I showed up fresh out of (mostly skipping) college in a strange city for an actual job.
And he was the same from the first day I walked into the old office downtown on Broad Street.
I was a young and enthusiastic know-it-all and also quite dumb.
He was young and enthusiastic and always mature beyond his years.
He didn’t have a lot of experience at the time, I had none.
But they gave him a sports section to run and he was on top of the world. He loved him some sports, and he loved newspapering even more.
He just knew we wanted the sports section to be more and, to be honest, we kind of figured things out together as we went along, Bobby always in the lead.
It was fun, exciting.
We studied bigger newspapers, talked about it at work, ran ideas past each other after work at various haunts and odd hours.
We both had some crazy ideas for shaking up the status quo, some nuttier than others, mostly mine.
A lot a trial, more than a few errors.
But one of Bobby’s great strengths, always, was in deciphering which of my lame-brain notions was near-genius and which of them might get us both fired, or arrested.
Even at the end, a million years later, when two years age difference is miniscule, he was always the big brother, the guy you knew would have your back, pick you up on bad days and celebrate the good ones louder and prouder than anybody.
And do the right thing.
I don’t know why this still sticks out because it was long ago and it wasn’t a huge deal, really just a passing comment.
But one day he’d overheard some of us sports staffers as we called high school coaches to write previews of the upcoming Friday night games.
Toward the end of the day, he observed, with just a slight touch of irritation, that, “I notice when you guys call the second coach, sometimes you tell him what the first coach said. I’m not sure that’s fair. If you’re going to do that, you’ve got to call the first coach back and tell him what his opponent said, too.”
Not a big deal. But, as always, he was right. Always was. He was going to be fair. I don’t think it was a conscious effort. It was just the way he thought.
He never tired of sports, but he did move over to the news side of things, leaving the sports section to me.
Well, not really. He still spent as much time in the sports department as in news, and I spent at least (my favorite) half hour of each day in his fancy news office, running things past him.
But when he moved over to news side, he inherited many of the duties of the late Buddy Threatt.
Chief among those, especially on weekends, was hanging around after the newsroom’s night crew had evacuated, waiting for the mighty presses to rumble and roll and — most importantly — then delivering a dozen or so fresh-off-the-press papers to Papania’s. They were gobbled up by LCAP and civilian revellers alike for cursory glances before everyone returned to solving all the world’s problems. Least ways the ones Eddie behind the bar couldn’t figure out.
It wasn’t a glamour job. Given your druthers, you’d prefer to get that head start.
But Bobby relished it — and not, I suspect, just because he was as good as any to give the next edition one last look-see before sounding the full speed ahead to the press crew.
No, when he strode through the doors at Papania’s delivering the goods, you’d have thought he was carrying in the crown jewels.
And in his own mind, he probably was.
Nobody — and I mean nobody — was ever more proud of where he worked and what he did for a living.
Nobody sang the praises of a family-owned newspaper louder.
Nobody was more protective and prouder of the daily product — nor more conscientious about making sure he stayed proud of it — than Bobby was about what showed up on your doorstep every morning.
I can say without reservation that he was the most loyal foot solider this company has ever had.
Foot soldier might seem like an odd term for somebody who spent virtually his entire career as an editor (boss) of some sort.
But that’s the way he looked at his life’s calling.
No matter the editor’s job he had, he did it without complaint, did it well, did it to make sure the product he was so proud of would benefit.
I could ramble on and on about the sounding board that was Bobby, the wise sage for younger and younger reporters.
Somehow, though, that’s not the Bobby I’ll remember.
Bobby, probably the conscience of the American Press, was also the guy who’d stride into the office lunch room during one of the frequent, ladies-only lunchtime birthday parties and announce, “The entertainment is here! Who wants to see me dance?”
He was a guy who literally whistled while he worked.
Or at least he whistled — mostly various fight songs but also some old standards —while he walked around to do his “visiting” in the newsroom, just checking on everybody to see what was going on.
It sure made it hard for him to sneak up on anybody.
One year for his birthday, the art department took a CD and dressed it up with a “Bobby Dower Whistles the Classics” cover that would have been worthy of a late-night infomercial.
His also sang a little bit, by accident I think.
You’d get bits and pieces, almost as if he’d stop dead when he realized what he was doing ... and the torture.
“It’s beginning to look a LOT like Chrisssssst-mas ...” seemed to be the go-to tune.
That would usually be in April.
Never did figure that one out.
But it was Bobby being Bobby, so why question it?
Or maybe with his optimism and enthusiasm, every day was Christmas.
He certainly knew the holiday.
As one former employee’s now-grown child texted him at the hospital last week, “You were the best Santa ever.”
The annual party the American Press would throw for worker’s offspring was probably his favorite day of every year.
He was Santa Claus, and for the most part he pulled it off, although there were incidents.
My own Jennifer, for instance, was maybe 4-years-old when she confronted me after getting her bling from that year’s affair.
“You said Santa Claus was going to be here,” she said defiantly. “That was Mr. Bobby.”
She knew him too well, perhaps, but rare was the employee’s child who didn’t visit the office and light up when they saw Bobby, Santa suit or not.
He knew them all.
They all loved him.
So did their parents.
So did everybody, it seemed, even in a job that usually breeds enemies.
I’m trying to figure out why, exactly, and maybe I’m over-thinking it a bit.
Maybe it’s simpler than that.
He was, honestly, the most inherently decent person I’ve ever known.
I just wish I could hear him whistle one more time.Scooter Hobbs covers LSU sports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted By: Ro Brown On: 7/15/2014
Title: It's All True
Great piece, Scooter! Everything you wrote about Bobby was true. If you want proof? Consider, that's the guy I knew and remembered---and this comes from someone whose last conversation with Bobby was about 30 years ago. My thoughts and prayers are with his families---biological and professional.
Posted By: Kathy Clawson Handley On: 7/14/2014
My parents were friends of Bobby's parents. I remember this cute little blond boy following his daddy around, always being curious. I remember how proud they were when he got his first job at "The Press". Scooter, your tribute to their son would make them equally proud. They raised a fine man and you are to be commended for writing such a beautiful article about their son. Thank you.
Posted By: Joe Lovitt On: 7/13/2014
Title: Well Said!
You find out a lot about a person from the words of those they left behind. I have read a lot of articles written by Scooter Hobbs since his days back at LSU, but the eloquence of his memories of his friend and mentor are truly his best work ever. Probably, because every word was straight from the heart. We would all be so lucky to have a Bobby Dower in our lives.
Posted By: Charlie Olmsted On: 7/13/2014
Title: Why do I know this song
Sitting in the church waiting for Bobby's service to start, I heard a song that sounded vaguely familiar or maybe not. And I am thinking: do I know this song and why do I know it.
It was something that Bobby hummed around the office.
Thanks for the memories.
Posted By: Faye Drake On: 7/12/2014
Title: Well said Scooter!
Your captured the essence of Bobby in your article.
Posted By: Marlana Bergeron On: 7/12/2014
Title: You nailed it
Scooter that was the best article I have ever read. You nailed Bobby to a tee. I totally agree with you. I would love to hear just one more whistle from Bobby.
Posted By: Pam Ragusa On: 7/12/2014
What a great article! Bobby would be proud! Thanks for making us so proud of Bobby. What a fine man he was. His legacy will live on. Thanks for the memories Scooter, he touched many lives and will live on in the hearts of the people that knew him. May he rest in peace.
Posted By: David Widener On: 7/11/2014
Title: Great tribute to a great person
Scooter, Bobby would be proud of your words but of course would not think he was deserving. I have not had much contact with him since leaving the rival Beaumont Enterprise but that's the type person he was. I remember his funny laugh. So sad to lose him.
Posted By: Ted Lewis On: 7/11/2014
Title: Amen to that
I wonder how many people who knew Bobby this week moved evreyone else they know up one spot on their best friend list. Scooter, you were worried about this You shouldn't have. Only you could capture Bobby's spirit - and decency. God, what I'd give to hear Peciou from Raceland just one more time/
Posted By: Doug Ireland On: 7/11/2014
What a man, what a writer. Sad occasion given the perfect tone by Scooter telling us about the remarkable man Bobby Dower.