Mingling with the rich and famous

Published 4:52 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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I’ve chatted with Charlie Daniels.

Somewhere buried within the mess that I call my office is Richard Petty’s autograph.

I’ve met and interviewed several North Carolina Governors…one (Beverly Perdue) during an unexpected visit to my office. And I’ve had the pleasure to meet other high-ranking state officials, thanks in part because I was an ally of powerful State Senator J.J. “Monk” Harrington.

A long, long time ago when I was cutting my teeth in journalism as a sports reporter, my then young daughter, while accompanying me to a game where I was stopped numerous times to chat with different folks, innocently asked, “daddy, do you know everybody?”

In my line of work, yes I do….it’s the nature of my business.

Have I ever shared the story of how I shortened my first name from Calvin to Cal? It has to do with a celebrity athlete.

In 1979, I moved to Tarboro where as newlyweds, my wife and I were employed at the Daily Southerner. I was in newspaper production at that time of my career, working in the offset camera room, plate room, and on the press. One of my co-workers on the press was Donald Bryant. He was an older brother of Kelvin Bryant, a star running back for the UNC Tar Heels who had three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons from 1980 – 1982.

While at the Southerner, I also covered high school athletic events involving Tarboro, Southwest Edgecombe, and North Edgecombe. The sports editor at that time – Mitch Evans – allowed me to cover UNC football games on occasion. In the very first one I covered, Kelvin Bryant rushed for over 250 yards and scored several touchdowns in a rout over Navy.

I wrote my story and selected my game photos to publish in the following Monday’s edition of the Southerner. The very next day, a reader called Mitch and asked how Kelvin Bryant had such a huge performance, wrote his own story and snapped his own action photos? Apparently, that reader confused Kelvin with Calvin, but to avoid that from occurring again, I simply dropped the vin off the end of my first name and have written bylined stories since that time as Cal Bryant.

NOTE: My mom never liked that as she was the one who named me.

By the way, Kelvin Bryant (the star athlete, not the overweight writer who becomes winded by just walking to the refrigerator) was drafted in the first round of the 1983 USFL Draft and rushed for 1,440 yards and scored 16 touchdowns en route to league MVP honors in his rookie season. He followed that up with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Philadelphia Stars before being signed by Washington (now the Commanders). He spent three full seasons in the NFL before an injury ended his career.

However, Kelvin Bryant isn’t the only famous person I have had interaction with during my newspaper career.

I work every day with Holly Taylor. No, not the Canadian-American actress and dancer who has performed on Broadway, but rather the highly respected, award-winning journalist from the Seaboard area of Northampton County.

Another famous name I share the office with on a daily basis is Judy Farmer. But don’t confuse her with Judith Farmer, a 2016 Grammy Award nominee who has enjoyed a rich and varied career as a chamber musician, orchestra musician, soloist and teacher. The Judy Farmer I know is the wife of Danny and the mother of Kelsey, and serves as the Advertising Director of Roanoke-Chowan Publications.

Anna Phipps is another hard-working employee here at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Don’t get her confused as the Chief of Staff and the Director of Learning and Development at British Telecom in London, England. My co-worker (aka “Sunshine”) is a single mom of two handsome sons and is well-respected by her advertising clients.

Up until a few years ago, Tony Clark served as our publisher. While the father of Whitman and Stella and the husband of Mary Ann is a avid baseball fan, don’t confuse him with the “other” Tony Clark who spent 15 years playing in the Major Leagues and is the current Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Part of my job deals with covering Gates County where Tim Wilson serves as County Manager. But he’s not the famous, late, great country comedian/singer/songwriter who penned such hits as “Hillbilly Homeboy,” “I Should Have Married My Father-in-Law,” “Church League Softball Fistfight,” and “Garth Brooks Has Ruined My Life.”

Another famous local official is Ronald Gatling, chairman of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners. But don’t get him confused with Ronald Gatling, a former 6’4” standout basketball player at Great Bridge High School in Virginia.

Troy Smith Jr. is a top-rated business and corporate attorney who practices law in New Bern. But the Troy Smith Jr. that I personally know coached five Northeast Academy softball teams to state championships and is currently a successful businessman as the owner/operator of TD Sports in Rich Square.

Tyrone Ruffin Jr. holds the program record for career receiving yards (2,930) and career receptions for touchdowns (33) during his four years playing football at Concordia University, a college in St. Paul, Minnesota. However, the famous Tyrone Ruffin Jr. that I personally know is a veteran law enforcement officer here in the Roanoke-Chowan area who has advanced to this November’s General Election where he is the only candidate on the ballot for Sheriff of Bertie County. He’s also well-known as a Christian music singer/songwriter.

I also know Wayne Jenkins, personally and professionally. No, not Wayne Jenkins (aka Lil’ J, Young Jeezy), an American born rap artist who has released 10 albums during his career. The Wayne Jenkins I know is a former all-star shortstop with the Potecasi Possums who went on to fame by marrying Donna Cowan Jenkins and becoming the father of Bryan and Suzanne. Oh, by the way, he also served with distinction as the Manager of Northampton County Local Government.

Yep….I believe my time here on Earth has included brushes with very famous people.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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