Big day for Andy in ‘lovely village’

Published 12:04 am Saturday, April 20, 2013

When Phillip Rawls was a boy, he liked to walk over from his father’s parts-supply business to the newspaper office, particularly on the day the then-weekly Andalusia Star-News was being printed.

The pressroom wasn’t air-conditioned in those days, so Phil would stand on the back dock and watch the press run.

“Ed Dannelly always encouraged me,” Phil, the Gantt native and Andalusia High School graduate recalled yesterday as he accepted Auburn University’s 2013 journalism award for distinguished mass media achievement.

Ed Dannelly was, of course, the legendary, long-time editor and publisher of The Star-News, known for his humor, headlines, and his love of a good story.

Phil listed Mr. Dannelly as one of two mentors. The other was Bob Morrissette, the long-time publisher of The Atmore Advance, where Phil went to work after earning degrees in journalism from Alabama.

“I was very green,” he recalled. “He gave me the best advice I ever received in journalism.

“Write it like the subjects are the first people you’ll see the next morning at the coffee shop,” Morrissette told him. “That way you’ll always be fair.”

It was a lesson Phil learned well, for his reputation as an Associated Press reporter who covers all things Montgomery is stellar.

David White, who presented the award to Phil, told story after story of his reputation for asking the toughest questions, but doing so in such a way that he doesn’t offend those he questions.

“They may not like Phil Rawls’ questions,” White said, “But they know they must answer them.”

Phil was one of five journalists honored yesterday by Auburn’s Journalism Advisory Council. Also recognized was Ed Williams, who was editor of The Star-News when he accepted an offer to teach at Auburn 30 years ago.

Others recognized were Guy Neill Rhodes, the editor and publisher of The Tuskegee News; Mike Easterling, former prep sports editor of The Huntsville Times; and Ace Atkins, the former AU football player who worked as a journalist in Florida before beginning a career as a novelist. He has published 12 books.

It was stunning that two of the five distinguished recipients had ties to The Star-News. Congrats to all of them.

In the early afternoon, in a separate event across the way at Draughon Library, John and Faye Vick were recognized for their generous contribution to the AU Library’s special collections. (See related story).

It was a big day for Andalusia in the loveliest village on the Plains.