/Orley Hood on Bailey Howell Shows how perceptive great sports writing can be

Orley Hood on Bailey Howell Shows how perceptive great sports writing can be

Gov. William Winter, an Orley fan and a great speaker, spoke as always with eloquence. “When I was growing-up, I wanted to become Orley Hood,” Gov. Winter was once an aspirant sports writer. Charles Overby, Orley’s ex-boss, was the great newspaper editor. Sid Salter was a friend and colleague of Orley. Malcolm White, Jackson’s social chairman and Orley’s friend for all those years, also spoke. Hunter Hood, Orley’s oldest son, spoke as articulately as anyone. We all spoke of Orley’s enthusiasm for life, his love for family, sports, people, and his mastery over words, sentences, and paragraphs. I moderated the discussion, for want of a better word. Between each speaker, I read from Orley’s columns. Orley was able to have his own funeral speech in this manner. As usual, Orley made great points and made us laugh, cry, and think. That is what great columnists do. Orley was rewarded with a standing ovation at the end. In retrospect, it was as perfect as a funeral could be. Many of us gathered at the Hall of Fame on Thursday night. We celebrated Orley’s passing on February 21, 2014. He had fought leukemia for many years and was finally able to fight it out. He was 65. We celebrated the opening of a new Orley Hood museum exhibit. Hap Owen, a Communication Arts original designer, did an amazing job creating the exhibit. It is located just outside the museum’s main arena broadcast booth. Owen used some words I wrote on the exhibit: Orley Hood was for over 30 years the poet laureate in Mississippi sports. He wrote humor, sometimes serious, and often eloquently about Mississippi sports and its heroes in Jackson and Meridian newspapers. He supported the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, where many of his favorite sports heroes are enshrined. Orley worked as a sports editor before moving to The Clarion-Ledger’s news and features department. His writing and sports sections won him many awards at the state, regional, and national level. His readers loved him. He was aware of the importance sports play in Mississippi’s culture. He was a strong believer in heroes and role models, and therefore, the Hall of Fame. Because he lived it, he understood it. Willie Morris, a great writer who wrote eloquently on sports, once stated that “we write best when we care about what most” and Orley wrote about Bailey Howell at the occasion of Howell being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Orley explains in 550 words what Hall of Fame athletes are all about in Mississippi and American culture. This is the best sports column that I have ever read. The exhibit includes Orley’s column about Bailey Howell. The exhibit also includes Orley’s Mississippi State windbreaker, which Orley’s father bought him 58-years ago. It is the one Bailey signed in India ink. Bailey, now 82 years old, traveled from Starkville to dedicate the exhibit. He was so touched by the experience that he couldn’t attend the fifth-ranked Mississippi State women’s home game of the regular season. You know Bailey well enough to know how significant that is. Everyone wanted to take a photo with the great Mississippi basketball player and the Orley Hood exhibit. Bailey smiled in every photograph, which is typical of his personality. Orley also smiled at the exhibit. It was a wonderful evening. It was a wonderful evening.