Goodbye, old friend

Published 9:01 pm Thursday, October 30, 2008

I came in Wednesday morning and began my work day going through emails as is usually my custom.

Then I saw one that stopped me in my tracks.

It was an email with the subject line “Death of Dr. Larry T. McGehee” and it came from the author’s email address from which I have received numerous columns over the past several years.

I was saddened as I read that the author of Southern Seen passed away last weekend in his home. He was 72 years old and had been writing his column for newspapers such as this one for more than 20 years. In her email revealing her father’s death, Molly McGehee said the family believed he had enjoyed writing his column more than he had enjoyed his career at Wofford College.

In the past 15 years or so, I have always enjoyed the columns submitted by the Wofford College professor-emeritus greatly. When I first began trying to handle the editorial page duties, one of the first things I did was restore Dr. McGehee’s column to our regular columns that run in this space.

There were two reasons I wanted to do that. One, I have always enjoyed his columns and I knew that many others did as well. The other was my great love for history and the nostalgia I feel for how things were when I began working at The News-Herald in 1991. Dr. McGehee’s column along with one written by a man whose name I can no longer recall, were two staples in this newspaper. There was something that was just right about restoring Dr. McGehee to his rightful place.

While I was never able to meet Dr. McGehee, something that I regret even more today, I felt like I was being notified of the death of a friend. Having read so many of his columns over the years, I felt like I had come to know him. I am saddened that the common-sense wisdom he passed along will no longer be available every week.

These words – an excerpt from the statement of Wofford College President Dr. Benjamin B. Dunlap – seem an appropriate way to remember Dr. McGehee.

“Larry was also an ordained minister and a theologian, and, if Saint Paul was right about faith, hope and love, Larry not only excelled in all three departments but agreed that love was the one that mattered most. He loved his family, he loved the South — especially Kentucky — and he loved Wofford College.

“Only his students over the past decade can truly say how much he loved those he met in the classroom, but nothing could have pleased him more than their decision to create a scholarship at Wofford in his name. On the last day of his life he watched a Wofford football game, not because football was of paramount importance to him but because one of his students was playing on the team.”

Dr. McGehee will be missed not only by his family and Wofford College, but by those of us who read his column on a weekly basis and enjoyed the way he looked at life and was able to share that view with good, average southerners.

Thadd White is Sports Editor and Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. He may be reached via email at or via telephone at 252.332.7211.