The first time I met Johnny Green was in the spring of 1984.
I was a cub sports reporter, fresh out of college. I was covering the district track meet (I believe it was in Texarkana).
There was Johnny Green in the infield ticking off running times, who was going to win this race or that race, watch this fellow he would say, telling a joke or two in between and then turning and yelling at track officials to keep this meet on time, or something to that effect.
“We’ve got a deadline,” Green said.
That was my introduction to Johnny Green, the longtime Texarkana Gazette sports director.
I thought to myself who was this guy? Are all sportswriters like this?
Not all are and that is what made Johnny special.
As Jack Stallard, Longview News-Journal sports editor, said on Facebook, “Met him early in my career and remember thinking ‘Man. I hope I never become a cranky, old sportswriter like him.’ Thirty-four years later, happy to say I did. He was awesome. Learned a lot from him.”
I concur with Jack.
As my dad would say (and as I say now), “Johnny’s a character.”
Late on Tuesday, I heard Johnny passed away after a long illness in a Texarkana hospital. He was 76.
He covered sports in Northeast Texas and areas of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana from 1962 until he “retired” in 2011 (One year he worked in Shreveport, Louisiana, but 10 months later he came back to Texas).
On July 21, 2011, Texarkana (the Texas side) Mayor Pro Tem Bob Bruggermann declared it “Johnny Green Day.”
The Texarkana Independent School District, in honor of Green, funds a scholarship for a student pursuing a sports writing career.
Gazette Editor Lee Minor wrote in 2011, “While most of us who toil in this profession see our best work end up in trash cans, his was the stuff that ended up in scrapbooks.”
I say “retired” but Johnny really didn’t. He continued to cover games for the Gazette while also helping the Texas High School athletic department; keeping statistics for the Tigers’ football coaching staff, being the official scorekeeper at Tiger Center for basketball games and the pitch-counter for baseball.
Johnny, who was hired at the Gazette right out of Hooks High School, spent many years writing about high schools — teams, athletes and coaches. Besides writing about sports, he was also an umpire. I’m not sure if this story is true or not (Johnny would never confirm); a runner was called out at the plate on a close play and Johnny was rumored to say, “I have to make deadline.”
I think Johnny just liked a good story.
He was a traditionalist, loving football, baseball, basketball and track.
You would not dare talk to him about soccer (communist sport) or ice hockey (communist sport on ice). Actually, he just liked to joke about it because he made sure to get as many local names into the paper.
Johnny also loved golf. Back in the late 1980s and 1990s when the Tyler schools, Longview schools and Texas High were in the same district, we would meet to play golf on Friday mornings at Wood Hollow Golf Club in Longview. I’m not a very good golfer (still to this day), but it was fun playing and hearing the stories from Johnny, the Gazette‘s Louie Avery and Longview News-Journal‘s John Inman. I think they invited me so they would always finish in the top three. Also, my buddy Paul Stone, who worked at the Tyler Paper at the time, would go as well.
After the round, I would get ready to go to my game and Johnny would say, “What’s your hurry? The game doesn’t kick off until 7:30 p.m.”
That was Johnny’s message, “slow down and take everything in.”
That would be good advice today.
I would see Johnny at many Texas High football games against John Tyler and Tyler Lee, as well as basketball playoffs and some baseball.
Johnny loved the Dallas Cowboys, especially covering them during the Tom Landry days. He was also a big Chicago White Sox baseball fan and he loved the Duke Blue Devils basketball team.
It was fun seeing him at Texas Stadium or at the Cotton Bowl for the Texas-OU game. Actually, anywhere. He always had a big smile when speaking of his grandchildren.
Next season when Texas High and John Tyler play, it will be sad not to see Johnny in the press box.
I treasure the memories of a special man.