By my calculations, I’ve written more than 300 columns since returning to the Eagle in April 2006. Topics for those columns ranged from El Chupacabra possibly running amok in Curry to sharing some of my innermost spiritual thoughts.
Our readers definitely didn’t agree with me on every issue, but that’s the wonderful thing about opinions — we all have one.
Even when someone didn’t agree, I appreciated the fact they would take the time to either call or email to express their disagreement. Apathy is a terrible thing when it comes to an opinion writer. If you can stir someone into some sort of response — positive or negative — it’s a good thing.
I’ve had several people ask me what is my favorite column that I’ve written.
I have several.
The column that stands out in my mind most is when I shared the dream I had about a massive playground in heaven. Family stories are also favorites of mine, and seem to be favorites of many of our readers. There was the one about almost getting shot by my grandmother on Christmas Eve when I ruined her decorative deer. The stories of our family vacations, which I dubbed trips by the Phillips Family Holiness Tabernacle Deliverance Experience, got a lot of positive responses.
A column I wrote about Jesus and Chick-fil-A caused quite a stir last year. More than 33,000 people have viewed that column, and for a few days it felt like I had received about that many comments on it. The ones that meant the most were from hurting people who saw someone cared. A phone conversation from one person who was in tears simply consisted of two works — “thank you.” How could that not stir a person’s heart?
As I prepare to transition “Blither Blather” to the “Magnolia State” of Mississippi, I wanted to take an opportunity to again say “thank you” to the readers of the Eagle. Through this column, you guys have accepted me and my family as members of your own family. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many of you, and it’s still surprising when a total stranger knows my kids names. It’s surprising, but it’s also humbling.
I’m leaving the Daily Mountain Eagle and Walker County for a great opportunity for our family. I will be the publisher of a newspaper in Mississippi. I still can’t reveal the actual city, but I can only hope I build relationships there like I have here.
Before leaving the Eagle as its editor for the last time on Thursday, my fellow members of the Bird Bunch gave me a name plate for my new desk, which read “James Phillips - Publisher.” They also surprised me with a very nice compass with Publisher Jack McNeely telling me, “That’s so you can always find your way home.”
While the Phillips family may be off on a new adventure, we will definitely never forget our way home.
I can’t put into words how much Walker County means to me. I can say the county’s biggest asset is its people. We’ve got our share of losers, but for the most part, Walker County is full of some of the friendliest and most generous people in the world.
People here know what it means to treat your neighbor as yourself. They know what it means to love each other and take care of each other.
I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss this place, but I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about this new adventure.
One last time, thank you readers and thank you Walker County. Keep the Phillips family in your prayers.
James Phillips is now former editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at email@example.com.