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Monday, July 14, 2008

We'll Miss You "Wild Bill"



It starts off like most obituaries:

William Wright Sorrels

William Wright Sorrels, age 83, of West Point, passed away on July 12, 2008 at the Veterans Home in Kosciusko, MS. He was born on July 28, 1924 in Cordova, TN.


I had to read it a couple of times. I always thought that this man was to "ornery" to die. Maybe he wasn't all that ornery. He wasn't really mean; he was cantankerous, he was stubborn, he had values, he was--he was a journalist. He was a teacher. He was my teacher.

"After finishing high school in West Point, Mississippi he joined the United States Navy where he served from 1943-1946 with the Seventh fleet in the Southwest Pacific. After returning from his tour of duty, he attended Mississippi State University, then transferred to the University of Missouri where he received his Bachelor of Journalism. He was an honor graduate and a Kappa Tau Alpha and Sigma Delta Chi Scholarship winner. In 1969 he received his Master of Arts degree from Memphis State University. He was also an exchange journalist in Venezuela. He was an accomplished newspaper journalist. He worked from 1949-1953 at his hometown newspaper, the Daily Times Leader in West Point. His next assignment came from Honolulu, Hawaii where he worked with the Honolulu Star Bulletin. From there he went to Memphis and worked for the Commercial Appeal for 23 years. He served as their managing editor from 1969-1977"


Bill was at the Commercial Appeal for the assassination of Martin Luther King and the death of Elvis.

"Then he went to Evansville, Indiana and worked for the Evansville Press, where he was their editor and president until his retirement. His second career began at Mississippi University for Women in 1984 where he held the Harriet Stark Gibbons Distinguished Professor of Journalism Chair. He loved this time spent with his students, who called him "Wild Bill". On many occasions, he was known to say that when he began teaching at the W, his mother told him that she had never been prouder of him. He was the Author of seven published books, including The Maroon Bulldogs and The Ole Miss Rebels. He also worked for Life magazine as their Mid-South correspondent from 1956-1960, and was the editorial adviser to the Craft & Art Market magazine."


From 1990 to 1993, "Wild Bill" Sorrels was the Advisor, Editor and Teacher for Dave Robison. Don't hold that against "Wild Bill"; he tried his best.

We butted heads on a weekly basis as I honed my skills as a Reporter for the MUW campus newspaper. Later, I held a disastrous position as the newspaper business manager. I'm not sure who cried and pulled their hair more--Wild Bill or myself.

Former journalism students of Bill's can easily recite from memory two of Bill's favorite expressions, "WHO SHOT JOHN?" and "TWO DEAD, THREE HURT IN CAR CRASH".

Simple lessons of journalism. Get to the point. The "story" should give you the facts in the first line--the first paragraph. Tell the reader first, "Who shot John?"; and after that, flesh the story out. As most of my readers know, I rarely follow that rule. BUT! I always remember it, thanks to Wild Bill.

My wife and I both attended MUW at the same time and actually took a Journalism class together on Media Law. Bill took a liking to my wife(as a student)and that led to another expression I often heard from "Wild Bill".

"DAMMIT ROBISON! DO I HAVE TO GET YOUR WIFE IN HERE TO WRITE THIS STORY?"

My wife, as a law student, wrote the facts. I tended to add a bit more commentary.

"ROBISON! First you learn to be a reporter, THEN, you can be a feature writer!"

Well, dammit Bill, you'll probably hate this blog entry, but I had to write it and I had to write it tonight. This is one story that I have to meet the deadline on.

"DAMMIT ROBISON! Have you ever met a deadline on time?"

Yeah Bill, This time I did.

William Sorrels is survived by his wife, Joyce Cade Sorrels; two children, Deborah Sorrels Webb (husband Randy) and John Clark Sorrels; three grandchildren, Shannon Williams (husband Charles), Clare McCreery, Logan Sorrels; two great grandchildren, Leven Williams and Catherine Williams; two brothers, C. H. Sorrels and James Sorrels, and a sister, Catherine Crosby. He is preceded in death by his parents, M. Lorene Wright Sorrels and Chelsea Howard Sorrels, Sr.; one brother, Ed Sorrels, two sisters Margaret Smith and Virginia Williams.

Graveside services will be Wednesday at 11 AM at Greenwood Cemetery with Rev. Steve Davis officiating. Visitation will be Wednesday from 10 to 11 AM at Robinson Funeral Home. Pallbearers will be John Sorrels, Randy Webb, Joey Vallarian, Bill Cade, L. Q. Patterson, Lee Coleman and Charles Williams. Memorials may be made to the First Presbyterian Church EPC, PO Box 366 West Point, MS 39773. Robinson Funeral Home of West Point is in charge of arrangements.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Hilary said...

Do you think he knew how many people will never, ever, forget how ornery and cantankerous he was? Did he ever know how many journalists lives he really influenced? I can't imagine having been at the W without him. Rest in peace, Wild Bill.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Bonnie Novak said...

I can only hope and pray that I see him again in heaven. I LOVED Wild Bill! He had such an impact on my life as a journalist and as a student. One of my favorite sayings of his was, "I hate students!" Then he would grin. He taught me to write and to be the journalism professor and newspaper adviser that I am today. He called me "that damned preacher's wife."

6:55 AM  

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