Jonathan Hock’s ESPN “30 For 30″ series documentary “The Best That Never Was” brought back a lot of memories for me, for my hometown and for a generation of Mississippians who knew the truth behind the legend of Marcus Dupree.
The recruiting saga that enveloped Dupree gave me a lasting friendship with the late Willie Morris, who first documented the Philadelphia High School star’s story in the book “The Courting of Marcus Dupree” in 1983.
Through Willie, I met a group of his friends in Oxford who would become my friends – Charles Henry, Glynn Griffing, David Sansing, Ed Perry, Richard Howorth and Will Lewis, to name a few. And while he was working on the Dupree book, a veritable Who’s Who of American letters stepped carefully through the clutter of Willie’s bungalow on Faculty Row at Ole Miss.
His father’s son
Best of all, I met Willie’s son, David Rae Morris. Our friendship has endured the ravages of distance, changing priorities, natural disasters, marriages, deaths and the birth of children. David is as good a photojournalist as his father was a writer.
During the writing of Willie’s book on Dupree in 1981, David shot an arresting photograph of downtown Philadelphia that captured both the ominous symbols that endured from 1964 along with glimpses of the wonderful town that I remember from my childhood.
David gave me a print of the photo. It’s framed and hung in a spot in our home where I see it daily. When he graduated from college, David came to Forest and worked with me as a do-it-all weekly newspaper staffer at The Scott County Times. We worked hard. We yelled at each other a lot, but we had fun.
David and I had time to share a quick lunch this week and talk about our daughters and old times. I love the fact that he is still possessed of his father’s mischief.
The ESPN documentary that Hock crafted – which utilized a number of David’s photographs from that era – completed the job that Willie began so well in 1981. Hock understood the head start Willie had given him and used it as a sort of roadmap to tell Marcus’s story.
Without Willie’s book, Jonathan Hock’s documentary would have been infinitely more difficult to produce. Without David’s photographs, the personal dimension of Marcus, his brother Reggie and his high school friends would have been lost as well.
On the trail of the Marcus Dupree story, Willie and I shared our 1982 Thanksgiving meal with Joe Wood and Dan Turner in an unappealing roadside diner in Joplin, Missouri, on the way to the Oklahoma-Nebraska game in Lincoln.
Now 28 years later, David and I had a pretty good pre-Thanksgiving lunch at Hal amp& Mal’s and remembered better days and the fun all three of us had watching the Dupree story unfold.
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter is Perspective editor the Clarion-Ledger. Contact him at (601) 961-7084 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.