Tag Archives: Southeast Texas

Time of My Life, Part 38: Taking on a music legend

It’s not every day you get to cross swords with a music legend when you think you’re trying to say the right thing.

Back when I was working for a living, writing editorials and editing an opinion page, I had the rare honor of running into some serious headwinds over an editorial I wrote regarding a legendary music icon. The idea for the editorial came from a colleague. It developed quickly.

In the late 1980s, I was working as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise on the Gulf Coast of Texas. We got word of a plan to name the Interstate 10 bridge over the Neches River, which separates Jefferson County from Orange County after the late George Jones, the country music icon with deep roots in Southeast Texas; he who was born in Deep East Texas just north of the Golden Triangle.

My colleague and friend insisted that was a bad idea. Why? Because Jones had a terrible history of alcohol abuse. Jones was a serious bad boy, given how he overindulged in adult beverages.

My colleague insisted it would be hypocritical to name a motor vehicle bridge after someone who lived a wild life and abused alcohol all along the way.

So, we published the editorial. We insisted that naming the bridge after Jones would send a terribly ironic message, that it would be a tacit endorsement of this admittedly brilliant country musician’s behavior.

I got push back from many of Ol’ Possum’s fans. After all, he had played many dates over many decades in Southeast Texas. He was one of us, they told me. How can we say such a thing about a fellow who gave so much joy to so many music fans?

The word got out over our objection to naming the bridge after George Jones. One day the phone rang. The caller turned out to be Nancy Jones, Ol’ Possum’s fourth wife, to whom he remained married until his death in 2013.

Nancy Jones and I had a cordial conversation, even though she objected to the Enterprise’s position that naming the bridge after Jones would be a bad public relations move. She wanted me to know that her husband had been sober for many years, that he was not the same man who engaged in that frightful behavior of his younger years.

We held our ground. I thanked Mrs. Jones for the phone call and for her courtesy.

As for whether they named the bridge after George Jones, the state and the adjoining counties thought better of it. Hey, it was worth the fight.

Let's quit the Hitler references

Randy Weber is making a strong case for the title of looniest Texas member of Congress.

The right-wing Republican who represents Southeast Texas — where I used to live — has gone overboard in criticizing President Obama for his absence from the massive Paris “unity rally” the other day.


The GOP nimrod posted on Twitter that Adolph Hitler bothered to go to Paris for the wrong reasons, while the president didn’t go “for the right reason.”

Good bleeping grief, dude.

Hitler went to Paris in 1940 to declare victory over the French during World War II. And this episode has reached some sort of moral equivalency? Give me a break.

I’ve criticized the president for failing to attend, or for the absence of a high-level, high-profile American official at the event; the U.S. ambassador to France did attend. And the White House did offer an unusual admission that it erred by not sending, say, the secretary of state to the enormous rally.

To compare the president of the United States to the 20th century’s most hideous dictator?

Keep your mouth shut, congressman.


R.I.P., Maury Meyers

This brief message will be of interest perhaps only to my friends in Beaumont, Texas. But I need to express some sadness today over news that a former mayor of the city where I lived and worked for nearly 11 years has died.

Maurice “Maury” Meyers served two stints as mayor of Beaumont — in the 1970s and again in the late 1980s. He was quite a visionary fellow who veered far from what I understand had been the norm for Southeast Texas politics.


A region that prides itself on homegrown talent and achievers welcomed this New York-born and bred Yankee into public life. Meyers obviously didn’t speak with that distinctive Southeast Texas combination of Texas drawl and Cajun inflection that is so common in a region I’ve referred to over the years as Baja Louisiana. No, he spoke the language of a New Yorker as he campaigned for public office and then made pronouncements from his mayoral bully pulpit.

Meyers sought always to promote Beaumont as a business-friendly city, which at times was a difficult sell in a region known to this day as a haven for plaintiffs seeking judgments against businesses. The region’s historically high membership in trade and crafts unions often was seen as an “anti-business.” Meyers sought to change that perception.

I think he succeeded to some degree.

Perhaps the apex of Meyers’s political career came when he challenged the late long-time U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks in 1990. Meyers ran as a Republican against the cantankerous Democratic lawmaker. Meyers lost, which was no surprise, given Brooks’s huge reservoir of support among African-Americans and union members. The newspaper where I worked, the Beaumont Enterprise, endorsed Meyers over Brooks — a decision we didn’t make lightly. Suffice to say it angered “Sweet Ol’ Brooks” greatly.

I respected Meyers greatly for the courage he showed in trying to reform what I thought then was a stagnant political culture.

He was a good man who fought like hell for the city and the region he adopted as his own.