TEXARKANA — Reactions from those who knew him flooded social media after learning of the death of former Texarkana Gazette Sports Director Johnny Green.
Green, who spent 48 of his 49 years as a member or in charge of the Gazette sports department, died Tuesday in a local hospital. He was 76.
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"Johnny took a chance on me, as an inexperienced sports writer with just one semester of journalism, and that was 17 years ago. Johnny was rarely surprised by news; he seemed to know it before anyone else. He was a great mentor, boss and friend. He had a passion for sports, writing and people, especially coaches and student-athletes. Not everyone always agreed with him, but I don't know of anyone who didn't respect him.
"Johnny loved his family, and we all mourn their loss. He was one of a kind and will be sorely missed."
—Texarkana Gazette Sports Editor Josh Richert
"For 18 years, we talked several times a week, went to ballgames together, we were friends. Johnny was probably one of the best writers I've ever been around. Professionally, he was outstanding, but stronger than that were the friendships he developed with everybody through the years. You always knew where you stood with him, and he was about as good a friend as you could have."
—Arkansas High head football coach and former Texas High football coach Barry Norton, via interview
"I was around Johnny Green for about 23 years and I have no doubt that he was the best sports editor ever. He was a pleasure to work with and be around. I thought the world of him and always had the highest confidence in his ability to cover the whole region, not just Texarkana, but the whole area. I knew when I went to church on Sunday and someone wanted to talk about the sports section, Johnny had my back and it was already covered. Some of my fondest memories I have are going to the sports department and arguing with him over Arkansas and Texas sports. I honestly enjoyed talking with him — it was always the highlight of my day. I called him, 'Guru,' because there was no one else that knew sports as well as he did. There were a lot of people who came through with plenty of sports knowledge, but he was the top dog. I'm sure going to miss him."
—Former Texarkana Gazette Publisher Buddy King, via interview
"I first met Johnny at a Lufkin vs. Texas High baseball game back in 1990, three years into my career as a sports writer. I was still learning the business and wasn't very smart, but I was smart enough to know when you get a chance to learn from someone who has been in the business for a long time you soak up everything you can from them. Johnny was great about letting me, as a young guy just trying to learn, pick his brain.
I have stuck around long enough to be one of the old guys now, and it was always fun to cover a game with Johnny later in our careers and talk about how things were done in the "good old days."
He can watch games from the best seat in the house now. He definitely earned it."
—Longview News-Journal Sports Editor Jack Stallard, via email
"I visited Johnny in the hospital about ten days ago and he knew that he didn't have much time left and he didn't want everyone to know that he was sick. I don't think that he could stand for people to fawn over him out of sympathy. He was old school and often brutally honest, but those qualities made him beloved. After we had a nice visit, his last words to me were "get out of here now, I have to use the bathroom." That made me laugh because it was perfectly Johnny Green."
—Leaving the Yard co-host Chuck Zach, via Facebook
"An absolute legend in #txhsfbmediamafia. I covered a few games with him, and his love of East Texas was unwavering. Rest in peace, Mr. Green."
—The Old Coach DFW sports writer Matt Diggs, via Twitter
"I took the spot that was vacated by Johnny when he retired in 2011 and Louie (Avery) was promoted to sports editor. Those were definitely big shoes to fill and I always enjoyed when Johnny would come in the office to talk sports or to give feedback on a story or column. We played golf together a time or two and were supposed to play again the next time I came down there. He always took the time to wish me happy birthday every year since I left the Gazette and would periodically check in with me and see how my kids were doing. The world is a little less bright without Johnny in it today."
—Former Texarkana Gazette sports writer Derek Oxford, via Facebook
"Tuesday night Texarkana and the surrounding area lost one of its greatest treasures. sports writer, umpire, husband, dad, granddad and friend Johnny Green passed from this earth.
"Johnny was a friend, a mentor, an encourager and had a wealth of knowledge to share."
—Contributing writer David Fant, via Twitter
"Sad news from the sports writing world."
—NWA Arkansas-Democrat sports writer Henry Apple, via Twitter
"Sad to hear about Texarkana media legend Johnny Green. I always enjoyed talking with Johnny every time we crossed paths, including the time I covered a doubleheader sitting between him and Louie. Thoughts with his family."
—Longview News-Journal sports writer Hayden Henry, via Twitter
"Just got word that former longtime Texarkana Gazette sports editor Johnny Green has passed away. I had the pleasure of meeting him and he gave me lots of advice when I first started."
—Observer/Houston Chronicle sports writer Marcus Gutierrez, via Twitter
"We lost one of the area's great newspaper men today. He was a dedicated, beyond knowledgeable sports writer, editor, and director for the newspaper where I started working. He was a man who was tough, but fair; calm regardless of the situation; and happy with his position and was a giant presence in a newsroom as well as in a press box."
—Marion County Herald Publisher Hugh Lewis III, via Facebook
"Such sad news. I spent many nights in the same press box with Johnny Green! He kept me in stitches with his comments. I loved working beside him at games. Truly one of the best sports journalists I got to call a friend."
—Journalism Advisor at Mount Pleasant High School, via Facebook
"Saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Texarkana Gazette Sports Editor/Writer and friend Johnny Green yesterday. Johnny always looked out for me when I was in the Texarkana area. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family."
—Longview News-Journal sports correspondent Joe Hale, via Twitter
"We lost a good one in the East Texas sportswriting with the passing of former Texarkana Gazette SE Johnny Green. He was huge baseball fan and loved the ChiSox."
—Longview News-Journal sports writer George Whitley
"Whew! This has really hit me hard. Johnny Green covering a game meant that it was an event.
You were at a basketball playoff game at the ET Field House when I was in college. You needed to use my phone at the dorm to get your story sent to the Gazette. The Student Union Building was locked, so you and I climbed on top of the building and we walked across the roof to get to the parking lot.
You covered the teams I coached and I knew I was doing a great job when you bragged on them. Because you never sugar coated a thing.
After a tough fork in my career road, you hit me right between the eyes with the truth. But you also let me know you had my back.
You were there less than a year ago to offer comfort and condolences in my time of loss.
And you were the person I could count on to comment on my Facebook posts with the words of my father.
Dad always referred to you as Big John. You will be so missed by family, friends, fans, and the fraternity of coaches. Rest In Peace."
—Jason Boston, former girls basketball coach at Pleasant Grove and Texas High, via Facebook
"Johnny Green it was a sincere pleasure to work with you. You were plain spoken, pragmatic, and loved what you did. Your Texarkana Gazette family always loved you. Thank you for your devotion to and your legacy in local journalism."
—Texarkana Gazette City Editor Christy Busby Worsham
"You were a big reason for my growth in journalism. We had many disagreements in our days together in the newsroom, particularly about sports. But you, my friend, made me better for it.
I will always remember those late night conversations we had talking about sports.
Rest in peace, Johnny."
—Texarkana Gazette Online Editor Jason Hopkins, via Facebook
"Just heard that longtime Texarkana Gazette sports editor Johnny Green died tonight (Tuesday). RIP my good friend. You will be missed."
—Texarkana Gazette sports writer Rick Thomas, via Facebook
"Found out tonight that longtime coworker Johnny Green has died. I am having trouble processing this information. He had been retired for a while, but we still saw him on occasion and there was always Facebook. I always looked forward to his jokes.
I will forever be in awe of his talent and experience in the newsroom. I learned a lot from him over the years.
As loud as the sports department could get, especially on Friday nights during football season, I still miss the sound of Johnny, James Williams, Tim Noel and Louie Avery arguing over teams, players and stats. Three of those gentlemen are now gone, three who taught me so much about this business and writing.
I think my favorite personal story about Johnny involves one of my biggest goof-ups in the newspaper. This was years ago in the 1990s, and I had not been building sports pages very long. I knew NOTHING about sports. Johnny wrote a story about a local player who was playing in the college bowl in Hawaii, and at the top of the story he wrote, "Aloha, big head," and then a longer headline or subhead below that.
I had a brain cramp and took his note literally and typed, "Aloha, big head" as top headline. I think my thoughts ran along the lines of, "well, it's weird but I don't know nothing about no sports," and it printed that way.
When I came to work the next day, someone informed me of my huge error, and I was horrified and terrified. Horrified because I realized that Johnny had meant that "Aloha" was supposed to be the big head or big headline. Terrified because then I had to face the great Johnny Green. His word was law when it came to sports.
I was very young and scared to death because I held Johnny in such awe. I knew he didn't suffer fools gladly. I stood my ground and timidly but fervently apologized to him and waited for him to let me have it. I think he realized how I scared I was, and maybe that and the fact that I was female played a part in his mercy, but I gradually realized the dratted man was laughing at me. LOL. I was so shocked and much relieved!
I got much better at my job, in no small part thanks to him. He always let me know when he especially liked something I did, and he gave me the professional courtesy of constructive criticism.
Go in peace, Johnny. Your family is in my prayers."
—Texarkana Gazette News Editor Andrea Miller, via Facebook
"There was no pretense with Johnny. You always knew where you stood with him. And he didn't have much of a filter. He had no problem saying what he thought, no matter who was around, and sometimes in pretty colorful language. It made for some hilarious newsroom stories — most of which I can't repeat!"
—Texarkana Gazette Editorial Page Editor Russell McDermott
I suspect Johnny and James are working out how to harangue Louie from beyond, and trying to convince the archangels that cheerleading is not a sport.
—Former Texarkana Gazette Managing Editor Ethel Channon
"Johnny Green, James Williams and Louie Avery comprised one of the great sports departments in the history of Arkansas journalism. I was glad we were in the same profession."
—Hot Springs Sentinel-Record's Bob Wisener
"Johnny Green helped this young writer back in the day. If he liked you, you were set."
—Inside Texas sports writer Justin Wells, via Twitter
"Covering a game beside Johnny Green was an event. I fortunately got to do that plenty of times early in my career. He was always salty, and he was funny, and he loved talking about his grandchildren. He was also probably the only White Sox fan I knew."
—247Sports sports writer Gabe Brooks, via Twitter
"Johnny was a blast to cover sports with as I did in the late 80's/early 90's. Commanded the room. Happy to hear he came to faith."
—Sports writer Tim Waits, via Twitter
"They don't make 'em like him anymore!!! As we say around here, 'He was a mess! But you knew where you stood!' loved the man; didn't agree (with) him all the time but it was fun to rile him up!! going to miss my friend!!!
—Mark L. Bledsoe, via Twitter
"Rest In Peace, Johnny Green. Mr. Green covered Texarkana sports for years and I was lucky to get to know him better when I worked at Texas High. Very few could weave words together to tell the story of high school sports like Johnny. I hope he and Al Hanna are together sharing stories of all the Texas High Tigers baseball, football, and basketball games they covered over the years."
—Carthage High School coach James Bubba Watson, via Facebook
"Johnny Green was in the Texarkana Gazette newsroom on Aug. 1, 1966, the first day of my newspaper/journalism career.
I remember the date because it was the day Charles Whitman killed his mother and wife, then climbed to the top of the University of Texas tower and began shooting students and others on the UT campus.
A young student from a prominent Texarkana family was one of the victims and the Gazette newsroom, led by the legendary J. Q. Mahaffey, was buzzing with a controlled frenzy and determination I would be a part of on countless other occasions in my career.
I remember thinking as I took in the office scene on that first day, "This is going to be an interesting job."
Johnny didn't hire me that first go around at the Gazette. J. Q. did that.
But he hired me for a second tour of duty a couple years later.
By then he was the sports editor and I was looking to get out of a job in Nacogdoches that was the wrong fit for me.
We became friends and I learned a lot from him, mostly by osmosis because he wasn't the instructor type, at least not back then.
He was smart and a friendly type and, again, I learned a lot from him.
He also seemed to be where he was comfortable and wanted to be.
I don't remember him ever expressing a desire to move on to bigger newspapers in Dallas or Houston or the likes.
I was the opposite and spent a lot of my time trying to get to one of those bigger scenes/papers, which I finally accomplished in 1972.
There is no doubt in my mind that Johnny could have made it to one of those bigger papers if that had been his goal.
But it wasn't and he spent a long, distinguished and rewarding career where he wanted to be, with legions of fans and loving family close by.
So, RIP, Johnny. You lived a good and rewarding life amid those who loved and admired you.
See you down the road."
—Former Texarkana Gazette sports writer James Walker
"In our haste to move forward, we often too soon forget the ones that paved the way. Johnny Green will have no such fate. Today, Gazette phones have been abuzz with Johnny Green fans from near and far calling to get a last word in — something Johnny himself probably never gave them. Johnny's words touched the lives of sports fans, players, coaches, peers and a slew of sports writers still pounding on keyboards late into the night. Through them his legacy moves forward still."
—Texarkana Gazette Editor Les Minor