A Positive Word Makes A Big Difference

The Texas Story Project.

Growing up in Austin, I was an unhappy teenager. That's nothing new, I know, but teenhood hit me particularly hard.

Earlier, I basically enjoyed a happy, confident life in a then working-class neighborhood in West Austin. I did well in school, had friends (including girls), and sang solos with the school choir. I had confidence as a child, and performed in musical shows at Mathews Elementary — and in my first year and a half at O. Henry Jr. High. But in the 8th grade, I suddenly turned from a small, cute boy into a super-thin, 6'1" teenager, who weighed only 120 pounds. I grew so fast that I developed a bone disorder that put me in bed for the entire spring semester. When I returned to school, I felt shy and my friends seemed distant. I felt awkward and insecure. I stayed that way through most of high school. I just didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I wished to attend the University of Texas, but didn't know how I would afford it or what I wanted to study.

Then, in 1959, during my senior year at Austin High, I took a composition course taught by a rather-quiet, balding man named Maurice Price. I earned good grades on several writing assignments, and one day, as the class was filing out of the room, Mr. Price called me over to his desk. I remember his exact words: "I think you can make a career as a writer." He talked some more about professional possibilities, and then I had to rush to my next class, as they say, "walking on air."

I had a direction to my life.

Inspired by the boost I received from Price, I became a successful journalist. Several times over the years I thought about tracking him down and thanking him, but, alas, I never did.

Mr. Price's compliment might seem a small thing to many, but to me it meant new confidence and a goal. I won a scholarship to the University of Texas majoring in journalism and began working on The Daily Texan. There, I slowly gained confidence and ended up as a top reporter, covering everything from the campus integration movement to the Texas Legislature.

I graduated in 1964 with degrees in journalism and government. That led to a job with United Press International, covering the legislatures in Austin and then Little Rock. In 1966, The Corpus Christi Caller-Times hired me to cover government and politics, and in 1976 the paper sent me to its parent company's new Harte-Hanks Austin Bureau. I became bureau chief three years later. During this time I expanded my specialties by winning an InterAmerican Press Association fellowship to live in and write about Mexico and Central America for a year (1970-1971) and a Ford Foundation fellowship (1990) to travel and write about Latin America for several months. In 1992, with Harte-Hanks obviously headed out of the newspaper business, I became the Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Insurance, retiring in 2002.

I now spend a happy retirement teaching English As A Second Language at First United Methodist Church and volunteering for several nonprofits and political candidates I support. I also look back on a long and happy career doing what Mr. Price told me I could do: make a living as a writer.

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