By Nick Lewis
I received a nice congratulatory email from Dick Ham soon after my retirement announcement was published. He understood why I was retiring, but was comforted by the fact that I was in the big chair, seeing that all the variety of operations were done and done well.
Dick and I were not especially close, but we always made it a point to have a conversation when we ran into each other. My most memorable experience involving Dick was a little different in that it was about something in one of his columns.
His columns humor us and educate us each week, but I never thought they would be offensive to anyone. But I guess everything we do or say could be considered offensive because we live in a hypersensitive society.
I guess even Dick’s columns about Bubba or his dumb blonde jokes could set someone off, and they did. I really don’t remember the circumstance or the person who called me, other than it was one afternoon after his column had published. I do recall something happened on the national scene regarding something a celebrity said about women that was offensive or was taken out of context.
I can’t recall, but it think it was either Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Riley. Whatever it was, this lady had had enough. She wanted to know how I could allow Dick to write dumb blonde jokes and then publish it. If we were going to allow him to continue, she said, we should censor Dick’s columns.
I just let her vent for awhile and then explained that newspapers are supposed to inform, education, entertain and even upset people. I explained that Dick was a model citizen for our community and had been a music minister at a local church. No matter what I said, she still didn’t buy it. Eventually, I was able to end the phone conversation somehow without making matters worse.
I don’t know if I ever brought this up with Dick because he is good man, brought humor to our readers every week, and I had never received any complaints about his columns. And it will be the only one unless this column sets this person off again.
Anyway, I hope that Dick keeps on writing about those dumb blonde jokes and stories about Bubba because we all need a little humor in our lives. Besides, as Dick stated in the email to me, he has considered ending the column many times until a complete stranger comes up to him and tells him how much they enjoy his columns.
I was thinking, who could follow Dick Ham in writing a similar column? Who could hold a candle to Dick. Rita Smart came to mind. For many years she was a popular Extension Service columnist until she retired and then was elected city commissioner.
My first personal encounter with her was after she retired as a Madison County extension agent. I believe we met at Community Trust Bank either for a Gallery on Main reception or a chamber after-hours event.
After we exchanged pleasantries, she told me she liked what I was doing with my columns and to keep it up. I explained that’s what local community papers should be doing.
Rita then invited me to become a member of the exclusive KMA Club. (I can’t tell you what KMA stand for, but it’s not the Kentucky Medical Association.) I was honored and told her to sign me up. You will have to ask Rita about the club.
In a recent conversation with Rita, she reminded me of the time I jumped on her case because she voted to pass the city’s budget soon after being elected. I asked her how she could have voted for a budget with numbers that were bogus.
I guess that encounter was sort of a wake-up call, because after that she was a fearless city commissioner on a mission. She was aggressive, demanding and inquisitive. She wanted answers and got them.
She was the breath of fresh air that we needed in city government. I wish her continued success in the state legislature.
And that’s just how it is.