Tom Henry



Put up or shut up – okay I think I will

Friday, February 9, 2018

Well, “all good things must come to an end”, including my time at the Blytheville Courier. This will be my last column.

Helen Keller once said that “when one open door closes, another door opens.” Life has certainly taught me that the distance between the two doors are always JUST far enough that you must let go of the first door of status quo and familiarity, allowing it to shut all the way, BEFORE you can step through the open door of opportunity before you. That is what is happening in my life right now and I want to let you know about it.

The Bible tells us “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” and that “to everything, there is a season.”

It is my solemn prayer that I have been faithful to the job of being YOUR watchdog and town crier. I have attempted to be honest and unbiased, diligent to facts rather than a peddler of spin. I also hope that I have delivered to you news and op-ed content that has been intelligent, entertaining and worthwhile. I desperately desired to be a worthy member of the noble fourth estate. But that season has ended and another one has begun.

“To whom much is given, much is required” is a very real principle. It convicts me every day to give back and to do my duty. Yes, we have an honest to goodness duty to one another, not just to those that can reward us.

It has been one of my life’s greatest honors to have been a part of your lives for the past few years. I have been blessed to be able to write YOUR story. I have been blessed to witness some of the most kind, generous and wonderful examples of human behavior, but I have also been cursed to see some of the most disappointing, despicable and diabolical acts as well. The truth is, YOUR story has been very gritty and I see that your life is very hard at times. But the darkness that we endure from time to time only brings out the light that shines from the goodness of our people.

During my time at the paper, I have exposed corrupt and incompetent elected leaders. I have bragged about good people doing wonderful things. I have high fived when our students have excelled, our veterans were honored, businesses have opened and much more. I have also highlighted valor and grit on a personal level. Your story is my story. When I have written profiles on cancer survivors and then things made a turn for the worse, it has broken my heart deeply, because they were a member of MY family.

When I wrote about the young mother that had lost all hope and had turned to a life of prostitution because of life’s challenges, the death of her support system and the ravages of drugs, it also did and still does devastate me, because she is now a part of MY family.

When I wrote about reading Christmas books to the children at the primary school, I beamed with joy because of the time I had spent with MY family.

When I reported the court records, marriage licenses, drug arrests, engagement announcements and particularly the thousands of obituaries, at times I did it with either tears or joy…because they were all MY family.

When I went on the street, to the scene of a shooting, and I witnessed the emotional outbursts of the family and spectators and as I looked at the dead bodies, I felt deep sorrow…I felt the regret…I felt like part of me had died…because they were MY family that was involved. Both the victim and the accused…they are MY family.

The bottom line and I give you my word on this, I saw my job here as a noble responsibility, a combination of historical chronicler as well as advocate. I attempted to wield the power of the pen (press) to stand over and defend all that were unable to defend themselves…because they are MY family.

Well, many times I have challenged the status quo, because when you see your family stuck in the mud, not living up to their potential or in danger…that is what you do. In many ways I have offered a metaphorical intervention for MY family members that needed correction. Not always was that popular…but it was done in love.

But sometimes words are not enough. More than one reader has suggested that I should either “put up or shut up” by running for office myself. Scores of people have contacted me and asked me to run for office and honestly, despite the fact that I have been getting paid for “talking” via print, I am more of a problem solver than a talker. When I sit in meetings and see the obvious solutions, but then am forced to watch as months and months or some cases years and years go by with much talk, talk, talk and no fix…I just about lose my mind.

There are NO problems that we face that together we cannot fix. We just have to do the right things, which sometimes are admittedly the hard things, but in the long run, we will prevail.

I don’t buy into the lie that “nothing good comes out of Blytheville”. I don’t buy into the lie that has allowed those in power to profit by keeping us divided, white from black, rich from poor, Southend from Northend, haves from have-nots...we are all one family – and I see that MY family is suffering. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Therefore, I am leaving the newspaper, with no safety net (employment), because MY family needs me. I believe that much in our city. I am resigning because this weekend I will be announcing that I am running for mayor of Blytheville.

I also encourage many of you to run for city council. The city needs us. I find our mayor and most of the city council members to be very likable people…they just can’t get it done. They have had time and they have shown they are not up to the task. We owe it to our children to build them a future and we owe it to our parents to protect all they worked so very hard for and to not let all of their legacies simply crumble to the ground.

If you would like to be kept informed of the announcement, visit tomhenry.org or email me at tom@tomhenry.org.