Professionally, Don Eddins wore two hats. He was a lawyer. He was a newspaperman.
Both fit his personality and his interests, because he loved words, loved legal affairs, loved staying active.
The two separate professions kept him hopping, for sure. How he handled all the balls in the air without missing a toss is what we all wanted to know. Perhaps it was a gift, just like Don himself, from the Almighty.
Also, we wish to know why Don was taken from us at this period in his distinguished life. And why his final days were so hard physically for him.
However, such decisions and measures are in God’s hands, not ours. This is for sure. But God must have needed a lawyer/newspaperman to keep the almighty abreast of all the rapid changes in our lives and in our society.
This I know for certain about Don. He was an admired and respected achiever. And I can tell you without hesitation that Don was also a gifted journalist as well as a knowledgeable lawyer. God got double duty when he put Don among us.
Those two professions kept Don fully engaged, and he enjoyed every moment. His devotion to his family came first, of course, but journalism and the law were in second place running neck and neck.
I had the honor of being Don’s first newspaper boss. I interviewed him at the Journalism School at Auburn as a candidate for a reporter’s opening at The Columbus Ledger, the afternoon newspaper in nearby Columbus, Ga.
I recommended to the big bosses that Don be hired. And so the Auburn University journalism graduate began his long and distinguished career working for the newspaper that had won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the law-breaking racketeering and subsequent cleanup of Phenix City.
I was the city editor of the newspaper, in charge of the reporting staff. Like the man himself, Don’s writing style was laid-back but right on point. I received many comments from readers on how much they enjoyed his articles.
He was easy to work with, always smiling. He took instructions for improvement with an open mind and with no arguing. Instead, he nodded OK and got back to his work.
Sometimes in the newspaper business, the work gets rushed and intense. Don was always cool under deadline pressure, always getting his articles done before it reached that critical moment. I could count on Don to get it done.
The other writers on the staff were just the opposite. Sometimes, I had to literally pull their stories from their typewriters to get them to the composition department before deadline.
Not Don, though. He had learned in his journalism classes that deadlines were just that — deadlines. So have your work ready before the deadline.
There was something special about Don from the get-go. He was nice and respectful, not full of himself with ego. He was gentle and non-demanding, and he became a valuable part of the team. He was very aggressive, though, at gathering all the facts and info needed for his articles.
I knew after a short while that Don was going places in the journalism business. We would only be his first stop on his rise up the ladder.
After leaving his mark in Columbus, and after gaining first-hand experience at writing and reporting, Don left Columbus and headed to Huntsville as a writer for the Huntsville Times. Before long, Don had established himself as an honest, reliable and dependable reporter there, too.
In a surprise turn, Don summoned me to Huntsville and I joined the staff as assistant city editor. I was working again with Don, who had achieved the status of one of the best of the Times' many reporters.
Back then in the 1970s and 1980s, newspapers were relevant, considered the most important source of news at that time. Readers couldn’t wait for the papers to hit the newsstands or tossed in their front yards.
As his abilities soared, Don became a distinguished graduate of the Journalism School at Auburn. His work spoke highly of the faculty and staff at the school and of the graduates who went on and excelled at newspapers, radio and TV stations in the South and across the country.
The Huntsville Times realized what it had in Don. In time, the paper sent him to Montgomery as the capitol beat reporter. There, Don wrote articles about politics and state government for newspapers in Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery — three of the state’s largest newspapers owned by the same company.
While in Montgomery, Don decided to attend law school at night. His interest in law, perhaps a byproduct of his legislative writing, helped spark the turn toward law in his portfolio.
It was then, too, he learned the art of burning both ends of the candle at the same time. After a hard day in court, Don went to the Villager newspaper office to catch up on his work. He was tired, of course. So God stepped in to slow him down.
In our days together, Don talked often of moving back to Auburn and starting a weekly paper. He truly loved the town and its people. And he loved the university. And so he gave back to his school and town in a major way by founding The Villager.
Over the years, I never met anyone who knew Don who did not like and respect him. Folks like Don don’t come along often. In my lifetime, there’s been only one — Don himself.
He leaves behind a legacy of service and devotion that his wife Nikki, his children, grandchildren and family members can cherish.
To paraphrase the English poet W.H. Auden, “Earth receive an honored guest, Don Eddins is laid to rest.”
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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