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Maurice Patton

"I’m born and raised here in Franklin. I tell people I’m the last of a dying breed. I was born at Williamson County Hospital, and I grew up right off Carter’s Creek Pike right across from the radio station. I am as Franklin as anybody in this town, for better or for worse.  

I guess I was lucky. Both my parents worked, and I gotta say, financially and economically, I can’t think of anything I necessarily wanted for I didn’t have. I was well-fed and well-clothed. You think things are awful as a kid but then you realize it’s a lot worse for other people. I didn’t realize it – when you’re five years old, stuff doesn’t really make an impact on you – but apparently, I was in the first integrated kindergarten class in FSSD in 1965, so I grew up in integrated schools all my life. Four years before that was when Natchez became the annex for Franklin High, and I remember stories about kids taking busses from Franklin High to Natchez to switch classes and that kind of thing. They’d go to one for the first half of the day and the other for the second half. I remember hearing about it, but I didn’t really grasp it because I was six.  

You hear about small, southern towns and things that were going on, but I didn’t necessarily see that. But again, I was looking at it from the lens of a kid. It’s tough to get it. Looking back, I remember all the stores downtown had a front and a back door. And I just thought it was for ease of getting to the parking lot on the back side of the store. I didn’t really get it, you know? Probably not until the last five or ten years. Those were the doors that my grandparents had to go through to get into those establishments. Those were the doors that my parents growing up here had to go through. I mean, I went through them just because that’s just where I was parked because there’s limited parking on Main Street. Relative to stories I’ve heard about other small southern towns in the 60’s and 70’s, I don’t think it was that bad growing up here. But that’s me. Somebody else may have a different story, I don’t know. But I don’t remember a whole lot of issues along those lines.  

Loved sports, wasn’t very good at them. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen exchanges between me and Holly McCall. I don’t remember if Holly was on the Rebel Yell or not, but I helped start the school newspaper my 8th grade year at Franklin Junior High School, which is now Franklin Intermediate. The Rebels were our mascot – there wasn’t anything wrong with it then - and so I covered sports. When we got to Franklin High, we started the school newspaper. We couldn’t use the Rebel Yell title because it was already being used, so we called it the Rebel Rouser. And our senior year, Holly and I were co-editors. Forty years later, it’s really crazy seeing how we’ve turned out. I’ve always loved writing. I took accounting with Martha Moore in high school, and I majored in accounting and business. I went to Lambeth College in Jackson for a year then transferred to MTSU. Should have changed my major, but I could not see myself going back to my parents saying, “Hey, I want to change my major to journalism and stay in school another two to three years.” While I was in school at MTSU, I was also working in sports doing game day stats, writing releases, stuff like that. I was sitting at a baseball game in the spring of 86, set to graduate that December, and one of the guys from the Daily News says, “Hey, what are you doing this summer?” I told him I’d be in town taking classes trying to graduate, and he said, “Well, we got a part-time spot.” I worked there from June of ‘86 until I was supposed to graduate. Didn’t graduate, left school, and got lucky because I started at the Review Appeal. So, I started there in January ‘87 full time. I wouldn’t say never looked back nor say the rest is history because it’s just kind of how it went from there. I worked for the review appeal for three years, then went to The Tennessean in 90. I was there until I was laid off in 2014. Started up a high school sports-based website, MoPattonSports.com, did that until I got hired at The Daily Herald in Columbia in October of 16. The Daily Herald was a gatehouse property when I got there. Spring of 2019, there started to be talk of Gannett and Gatehouse merging, and I thought, “Not again.” How do you buy a failing operation and adapt their business model? But that’s what they did. The sale became final in November of 2019, and I got laid off in April 2020. So, me and the other guy who got laid off at the same time, we started to do what we knew they wanted me to do – high school sports. Killed it. About sixteen months later, Dave Blue with Main Street Media, folded us into their organization – a weekly print product with a robust internet presence, and the rest is history.  

I’ve been doing this for 35 years basically. I’ve won a couple of awards. One is a lifetime achievement award; I was inducted into the Tennessee Sportswriters Hall of Fame last July. I’m not a person who likes to talk about myself a whole lot, and my typical response, is there’s something to be said in this business these days for sticking around because not everybody does. I had to fight to stick around, to be honest. Getting laid off not once, but twice. I tried to go the media relations route, I tried other things, I just couldn’t be in the right place at the right time, I guess. Journalism is something I know, and I feel like I do it fairly well. In January, I found out I was voted the National Media Sports Association’s Tennessee Sportswriter of the year for 2021, and that one literally came out of nowhere. I’m not a member of the association and you have to be nominated. I have no idea who nominated me, and you have to be voted in by the membership. I’m going in June to Winston-Salem for the awards banquet. I think there is something to be said for sticking around and showing up. I don’t know how great a writer I am, but there are some things I think I do pretty well. Persistence is one of them. Make the extra phone call, make the next phone call, ask the extra question – that kind of thing. It’s worked, I guess.  

Journalism is all I know. There’re probably some other things I could do, but I don’t know that I could do them as well. I don’t know if it would be as satisfying because I still – thirty-something year later – get a kick out of seeing my byline. You would think you would get over that at some point, I don’t know that you do because seeing your name out there means something.  

I worked 24 and a half years at the Tennessean, the first 5 covering high school; our niche in the late 80’s was Franklin, Page, BGA, Brentwood, and Fairview. That was it in Williamson County. It didn’t always look like this. I covered UT – which was like going from Class A to the majors – for 2 years then college the next 15 and came back to high school sports in 2009. There’s a couple of things about covering high school. One, it’s not as much 24/7 as college or pro, but the higher you go, the more jaded people get. The interactions with the kids and coaches you don’t get at any other level – less jaded, more open, more access. The high school environment appreciates the coverage, especially in this market. I grew up at a time where high school sports really meant something. I don’t think that’s changed.   

My relationship with Gannett is multi-faceted. I’ve tried to give breath to all of those. If I hadn’t gotten there in Feb. of ’90, 3 months before my daughter was born, I don’t know how I would have fed her. I’ll forever be grateful for that break because I grew up reading The Tennessean. I remember opening it on Saturday mornings to see Friday night's games. My senior year, when the Braves started 13-0 - this was pre-ESPN - I'd grab a paper to see how they did the night before. For me, as a Franklin native, getting the opportunity to work for them was indescribable. And the way they screwed me in the end was indescribable. I got to do some amazing things, though. I covered Peyton his sophomore and junior year. I covered 2 out of 3 UT women’s basketball National Championships. I covered Vandy’s first bowl game victory in who-knows-when in the Music City Bowl in ‘08. I got to do some memorable things there, and I got treated pretty memorably. Some of that stays with you. So, when you get inducted into the Hall of Fame or win a National Sportswriter of the Year, it validates some of that. I said during my Hall of Fame induction speech that none of us gets into this business for the recognition. But it sure is nice when you get it." 

- Maurice Patton, Franklin resident

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