Julian Miller: My Sam

My “Sam” was actually a “Bill”, W. S. “Billy” Morris III, to be exact. He was the CEO of the company and he loved to tell me I was not a publisher any more than he was a CEO. “We are nothing but teachers,” he would say, “Our jobs are to help others grow. Hopefully, we will be better next year than we are this year.”

His teaching experiences were many and varied.

In the 1980s, Billy owned not only the second largest newspaper in the state, but the largest locally owned company in Augusta, Georgia. He was pretty much depended on for everything in the community and he contributed to all, but got little credit for it.

One day the Augusta Rowing Regatta came calling, asking how to make the nationwide collegiate competition on the Savannah River more successful. They really wanted a contribution. But they asked for advice, and Billy was trying to give it.

After a quick lunch at a riverside restaurant Billy and the Regatta board, with me in tow, took a hike down the levy that separated the river from Downtown. It was overgrown, extremely steep and full of flying bugs with teeth near the finish line. Billy immediately saw, “there’s no good place to watch the finish.” He looked up at a highway bridge overlooking the river and announced, “we need to close the bridge and put bleachers on it.”

“Can’t,” replied a board member. “It’s a state highway.”

We trekked on for 15 minutes with Billy pausing occasionally to point out the strength of the bridge bleachers, each time getting the same reply. On his fifth mention, he was standing next to me and I foolishly answered, “But you can’t close a state highway.” Big mistake.

In the time it takes for a mosquito to buzz, Billy had whipped around to face me, our noses inches apart: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do! People have been doing that all my life. Of course you can close a state highway! It’s done all the time. Tell me HOW you’re going to get it done.”

I never told Billy he couldn’t do anything again. And I rarely allowed anyone to tell me, either.

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