The Flyer was founded in February 1989. On the front cover of that inaugural edition, we put the words, "Our First Issue." Being nothing if not consistent and literal, we continued to proudly proclaim the issue number on each of the subsequent 999 issues. (There is an unverifiable story that the number didn't get updated one week in the 1990s and that there may in fact be two issues with the same number. But no one wants to go through all the back issues and confirm this.) At any rate, this one is number 1,000.
That's a lot of Tim Sampson columns.
Tim was the Flyer's first editor and did the heavy lifting during the early years, when the paper was struggling financially. His cynical sign-off for his "We Recommend" column ("I don't care what you do because I don't even know you") was no doubt born from having to endure weekly fist-pounding meetings with the publisher (the kindly, handsome, and easygoing Kenneth R. Neill).
The fist-pounding stopped after a couple years, when the Flyer started making a little money (and when Ken's watch exploded off his wrist after a particularly forceful pound). But the damage had been done and Tim hasn't been the same since. Poor man.
Dennis Freeland took over as editor in the early 1990s. He was a great fellow and a brilliant sportswriter as well. Under his leadership, and that of managing editor Susan Ellis, the Flyer blossomed and grew into something of a local institution. If you hadn't read John Branston's City Beat or Jackson Baker's Politics or Dennis' sports columns, you were out of the loop.
I began working here in 1993 as editorial director. I became editor on a "temporary" basis when Dennis fell ill with cancer. Following his sad and untimely death in 2002, I moved into the editor's office and never left. This is probably my 350th issue or so. But who's counting?
The people who do count are those who create your weekly Flyer — the writers, editors, art directors, ad sales folks, and others who make this publication possible. Do me a favor. Turn to page 6 and read the masthead, just this once. It'll make me feel 1,000 times better.
The U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, but there are many who will tell you that we're still fighting it and will find evidence of such in Jackson Baker's cover story about the current battle over General Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue and gravesite in Memphis ...
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...