Tuesday, June 18, 2013

'Let's go hit a lick'

Pete Dosher
       There were many reasons I attended Louisiana Tech University, but the main reason was the sports information director.
        His name was T.H. Dosher -- Taliford Harris Dosher. Taliford Harris? No wonder everyone knew him as Pete.
        Without his influence, without his help, I might've gone elsewhere.
         But in the early 1960s, the best athletes from Woodlawn High School in Shreveport, and dozens  of kids from there were going to Louisiana Tech. By the middle of my junior year in high school, I knew I was too.
          Because by then, I had met Pete Dosher, and he pretty much made it known that he wanted me to come work in the sports information office. Yes, he "recruited" me.
          I'd been hearing about Tech, about the famed football coach/athletic director Joe Aillet, from a sportswriter at The Shreveport Times, Ed Shearer, and some of my coaches at Woodlawn, ex-Tech players -- Jerry Adams, Billy Joe Adox and A.L. Williams (especially A.L., who was one of Coach Aillet's biggest fans).
         When Ed, and later Jim McLain of The Times, began inviting me to accompany them to Tech home football games they were covering, I met Pete Dosher, and I got to sit in the little press (maybe it seated 20) at the old Tech Stadium.
           Ed and Jim had been talking to Pete about me; so had Coach Williams. Pete showed me what the young men who were keeping statistics during games were doing, and let me sit close so I could observe.  I knew that starting in the 1965 season that job would be mine.
            Pete told me that Tech had a work-study financial aid program, and usually had money available from that for a student assistant in sports information. He kept in touch by mail, and by the middle of my senior year at Woodlawn, he had me lined up to begin that fall.
           And again -- this happened to me a lot -- he was one of the most influential people in my life.
           He was really my guardian angel at Louisiana Tech. Pete, who was one of the most unflappable, most unemotional, calmest people I've ever been around, would probably have snorted at being called a guardian angel. But just as he had done with Shearer, and maybe Louis Bonnette, and with Glenn Lewis, and others in athletics and journalism at Tech, Pete really took care of me.
           He was also a journalism professor at Tech, so I had probably a half dozen courses under him. But those weren't gimmes; you had to do your work in Pete's classes.
            In fact, Orville K. "Buddy" Davis -- my best journalism pal and already the Ruston Daily Leader sports editor then (and still, after 50 years) -- and I called him "Sneaky Pete" because Pete usually threw in a couple of tricky questions on tests.
           Of course, we didn't call him "Sneaky Pete" to his face. And we'd laugh because Pete -- as droll and dry-witted and country as anyone -- would refer to us as "peckerwoods."
          But here's how Pete took care of me. In four years at Tech, there were few weeks -- if any -- that I did not eat at least one meal at the Dosher house and visit with Pete and Miss Mary, and their two little daughters, Kelsey and Kathleen.
          Some weeks it was multiple meals with the Doshers out there on the Monroe Highway in Ruston.
          Plus, Pete loved his coffee breaks. We'd go to the P.O. Cafe, at the corner of Tech Drive and Highway 80, almost every day.  
          He gave me guidance in picking classes and professors, and finding textbooks through the athletic department. He paid attention to my Dad when he'd attend Tech games.
          And I learned a helluva lot from Pete in my one year with him as the SID.
          He had been a reporter at a couple of newspapers before coming back to Tech, and he was a very solid writer. He was so fundamentally sound as a journalist, and he was a quick writer. He loved athletics -- he had been an All-State basketball player at Jena (La.) High School and also played at Tech in the late 1940s -- and he loved Coach Aillet and really all the Tech staff. Many had been there for years, preceding Pete.
            Pete, who had been Tech's first student SID assistant, became Tech's SID in 1957. He knew everyone on campus that was anyone, and he knew his business thoroughly.
             He went over the statistics forms with me, how to report them to the NCAA weekly, and how to report game stats and facts -- or call in stories -- to the various papers in the area. Remember, this was before fax machines, long before computers; it was all reported by phone, by dictation.
              He gave me carte blanche to reorganize Tech's athletic record books; Pete trusted me to do it the way I wanted.
               But here's the two biggest lessons Pete taught me, journalistically.
               In football season, we'd send out a couple of stories a day -- maybe a feature, or a game  advance, or just a daily practice report, or a factsheet for the upcoming game. From day one, Pete encouraged me to write.
               In those days, we would write the story on a stensel, then run 30-40 copies on a mimeograph machine to mail out. First day I went to write, I wanted to type the story on a sheet of paper, then retype the complete version on a stensel. That way, if I screwed up and had to rearrange, I wouldn't have a messy stensil.
              No, no, Pete said, that takes too long. Just organize your story as you go, don't worry about the mistakes. If you have to xxxx out a word or two, it's OK, don't sweat it; we'll copy-edit it.

My freshman year at Louisiana Tech: At a home
basketball game with Pete (from the Lagniappe)
               So that helped me to learn to organize the story immediately, to type more carefully to avoid typos -- and to strive to do it right the first time. Writing off the top of my head would serve me well for the next 45 years in the newspaper business.
                Lesson No. 2: Pete stressed that when you're covering a game the way you're supposed to, or you're doing statistics, there's not time to get emotionally involved in the game. Pete was a cool guy, so that was no problem for him.
                As a newspaper reporter, I almost always followed his example well; I was busy trying to keep stats and play-by-play, and think of story angles. As an SID (at Centenary), I was far, far too involved. So that lesson didn't take entirely.
               And so many days, it'd be lunch time and he'd say, "Well, let's go to the house and grab a bite. Mary (who was a nurse) will be there." The conversation with Pete and Mary was always a pleasure. She was as informed and interesting, and low-key and friendly, as Pete.
           When we'd get ready to return to the office, Pete would say, "Well, let's go hit a lick." Which meant there was a story to write.       
           Soon after I came to Tech, the twin boys (Karl and Keith) joined the Dosher family. Pete wanted more time with all his bunch, so he left the sports information job but remained a journalism professor.
           Pete had hoped to become the head of the journalism department when Kenneth Hewins, who had been at Tech since the Middle Ages, retired. Pete didn't get the job; instead, it went to Wiley Hilburn, a Ruston High/Tech alum who was an editorial writer at The Shreveport Times and a darned good one.
            Wiley would build an outstanding journalism department at Tech over the next three decades. Pete moved on -- to nearby Grambling State University. He started a journalism department there and also, as Grambling's football program became nationally famous, helped the legendary SID there, Collie Nicholson, with publicity work. Pete became as big a fan of Eddie Robinson's as he had been of Coach Aillet.
          His journalism program, at a time when opportunities were opening up for blacks, paved the way for many of his students to get jobs at prominent papers all over the country.
           Still, even that year (my senior year) when Pete was at Grambling, he would call me in the SID office at Tech once or twice a week to go have lunch at the Dosher house.
           We stayed in touch over the years, always. I have a dozen Pete letters, most of them gems. I go back and read them now, and I can't help but get choked up.
             In one of his final letters, Pete mentions the people we knew, friends, who had died and he said, "It might not be too long for me." I think he knew he had cancer (he was a longtime smoker).
            It wasn't long after that when I got word that he had been in Little Rock for treatment, but had gone home to Ruston. In February 2003, I made one last visit to see him for a brief moment. I've talked about that in a previous blog http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2012/10/that-one-last-talk.html
              Two days later he died.
              I had told Mary I couldn't return for the funeral, but after I read his obit, I called her and said, "That was a wonderfully written obit." Mary laughed and replied, "Pete wrote it."
               Four years later, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association honored Pete with the Distinguished Service in Journalism Award, which pleased his family greatly -- and pleased me.
              For me, Pete Dosher's distinguished service went far beyond journalism. Nothing sneaky about it.  


  1. From O.K. "Buddy" Davis: Great story on Pete, Nico.
    Yep, that's a dang good story on the ol' peckerwood.
    Loved Pete. How couldn't anybody not love that man?
    My mom worshipped him. Saw Mary not long ago in Wal-Mart and she and I were laughing about one of Pete's former journalism class students: Phil Robertson.

  2. From Leon Barmore: Enjoyed reading about Pete Dosher. I remember him and liked him a lot. I remember you coming back to visit him.

  3. From Kathleen Dosher Davis: Mom forwarded your blog to me, Karl and Kelsey. It made me smile, laugh and cry all at the same time. Thank you so much! He was a wonderful father and teacher to us as well. I carry many lessons from him with me every day. He thought so very highly of you.

  4. From Mary Dosher: Thank you so much for this insightful and entertaining blog. I forwarded it to all the kids and to such of our friends as are still alive and knew him. Yours and Pete’s was a mutual admiration society (and me, too).

  5. From Karl Dosher: Thank you so much for the blog. After these 10 years since Dad left and he still has a special part of people's life -- AWESOME! I'm so glad Dad was able to help prepare you in part of life, as he did so many. This blog made my family feel so special.