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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Richard Connor: Hey, Fort Worth, let’s honor a national treasure

Among us stands a gallant oak. Leaning and a bit bent. Weathered and wise.

If life were an animated movie and this tree stood tall in the film when you walked past the stoic symbol of strength and glanced over your shoulder you might find among its bark mirth, a garrulous smile, and laughter.

The tree would be laughing both with and at all of life that passed by.

Dan Jenkins, Fort Worth boy, local and national writing legend, is that oak – elegant in both perfection and imperfection. He would be smiling because among other things he sees the absurdity in much of life and particularly sports. His sharp, incisive eye has placed him among the best satirists that writing has ever known.

His latest fiction book, Stick a Fork in Me – a review of which will be published here next week – is a perfect example of a humorist at his edgy best. The book is a laugh a paragraph with a tinge of political – or political correctness – satire to it.

But Dan is ours. Fort Worth’s.

Dan and his entrepreneur/ restaurateur wife, June, moved back to Fort Worth, a city they love, several years ago. They came back to enjoy our understated lifestyle and live outside the bright lights. But enough’s enough.

It’s high time for a homecoming celebration and time to name a writing program or professorship or lecture series in Dan Jenkins’ name.

Dan is a famous author who has put Fort Worth, Paschal High School and TCU on the map. June had a restaurant downtown – Juanita’s – before restaurants were commonplace there and long before having one there was cool.

Jenkins’ writing has promoted Fort Worth and his alma mater, TCU, to national and worldwide audiences for decades.

But, this week, Fort Worth and TCU got bushwhacked.

Those dadgum Longhorns in Austin got the jump on us. The University of Texas announced that it has created “The Dan Jenkins Medal of Excellence in Sportswriting,” which will be awarded to two honorees who will be chosen on April 10. Rubbing salt in our parochial wounds, the awards will be presented in Dallas on Oct. 13.

We need to fight back.

TCU has had its campus graced by famous and superb writers. Both Larry McMurtry and Larry L. King taught there. In journalism, TCU has produced many notables, among them Bob Schieffer of CBS News (after whom the communications school is named).

Jenkins is special, though. He played both ways in the parlance of football. Actually, he played several positions, covering sports as a reporter, writing columns and churning out countless reams of fiction and nonfiction alike. He is both a great writer and a formidable journalist. His roots were planted among the tall trees of writers at the old Fort Worth Press: Blackie Sherrod, Bud Shrake, Gary Cartwright, all gone. Jenkins remains here and still writing. There may be yet another book on the way.

Left here with him is his compatriot, also an ex-Press writer, the irrepressible Jere Todd who left sportswriting for an illustrious career in public relations and marketing in Fort Worth.

Todd says that Jenkins’ talent always stood out among the arguably best group of Texas writers ever to sit at one time in the same newsroom.

“He was the best,” says Todd. “He had the talent. He had the ideas. He was a great writer.”

Jenkins soon will leave for the Masters Golf Tournament to be held April 6-9 in Augusta, Georgia. He has covered 67 in a row. No one has a record to match. He has covered 229 major golf championships. No one is in his league. He is considered among the greatest golf writers of all time.

ESPN has taped a show on Jenkins that will run both before and during the Masters.

He has written 23 books and three of them were made into movies

Jenkins for many years wrote for Sports Illustrated, covering a wide variety of sports including college and professional football. That was when Sports Illustrated was home to many of the best writers in the country – Frank Deford, Mark Kram, Roy Blount Jr., among others. Kurt Vonnegut didn’t make the cut but was there briefly. Serious stuff in those days at SI.

The University of Texas will now get Jenkins’ library, bound volumes of Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest, his research, and some letters.

Still to be determined is the ultimate home of his manuscripts.

Fort Worth is known for its townsfolk, business leaders, and academic leaders coming together quickly to make things happen.

There is a link missing here in the chain of our famous citizens.

Leaving Jenkins out, says Todd, “is like leaving Mark Twain off the river.”

What are we waiting for? Who will take up the challenge and shine a light that will last forever on Dan Jenkins? And don’t forget June.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at rconnor@bizpress.net

Richard Connor
Richard Connor is the owner and CEO/Publisher of DRC Media, the parent company of the Fort Worth Business Press. he also owns newspapers in Virginia. Mr. Connor held a number of corporate media executive positions before founding his own company. He is an award-winning columnist and at one time wrote a weekly column on national politics for CQ Politics, the online version of Washington, D.C.-based Congressional Quarterly.

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