By John Marcase
Written for the LSWA
There is a fine line between being stubborn and being dedicated.
Philip Timothy blended the two perfectly.
That may explain why Timothy is being presented with the highest honor in Louisiana sports journalism – the 2019 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
That means Timothy is being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame along with the rest of the Class of 2019 Saturday, June 8, in Natchitoches. For information on the June 6-8 Induction Celebration, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.
In November 1999, Timothy, then serving as assistant sports editor at the Alexandria Town Talk, helped put the paper to bed one Friday night during the high school football playoffs. That meant he left the office after midnight. Timothy drove to his camp in the Saline-Larto Complex to go duck hunting the next morning.
After the hunt, he drove home to clean up before heading into the office to help work on Sunday’s paper. About 200 yards from his house, he fell asleep at the wheel of his truck. He awoke the next morning at Rapides Regional Medical Center with both feet and ankles shattered, external fixators protruding from both legs.
By the time he moved to a rehab hospital, Timothy was back writing stories. As long as he could type and use a phone, he decided, he also could work.
Stubborn or dedicated? Or both?
“I never thought P.T. was stubborn for stubborn’s sake,” said Raymond A. Partsch III, who worked with Timothy at The Town Talk in Alexandria. “To some, he may have come off as stubborn, but what appears to be stubbornness is just a reflection of his immense passion for sports journalism – whether that is for page design, headline writing or writing a story. Philip truly believed in what he was doing and would defend that with every ounce of his being. That is something you always had to admire and respect.”
Glenn Quebedeaux, a 2015 DSA honoree, recalled his first face-to-face encounter with Timothy. Quebedeaux was covering sports for the Daily Iberian in New Iberia when Timothy arrived at the Daily Advertiser in Lafayette in 1986. A rivalry quickly developed.
“When he came to the Advertiser, they didn’t cover St. Martinville; we did in New Iberia,” said Quebedeaux. “Well, Philip started covering St. Martinville. The Associated Press started running individual stats in football and one week they used his stats instead of mine. We got into an argument over the phone so we met at the Cajun Field track parking lot.”
Consider it the sports writing version of a duel, except with pica poles (a ruler) instead of pistols.
“I pulled up in my car and Philip and (fellow Advertiser reporter) Kevin Foote pulled up in Philip’s truck,” said Quebedeaux. “I get out of my car and Kevin gets out of the truck. I tell the ‘Big Guy’ to get out of the truck and he wouldn’t. He made Kevin relay messages back and forth.”
“As I remember, their first big fight was a heated debate about an All-Acadiana MVP baseball selection,” said Foote. “Looking back, the beauty of the fight was that both were intensely passionate about their stances. That’s what made them both so good at their jobs and willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. That’s the biggest lesson Philip taught me early on in my career.”
Fortunately for athletes in Acadiana, a détente was reached between Timothy and Quebedeaux.
“We hashed it out and ever since then, we’ve been best friends,” said Quebedeaux. “We were so competitive. He was a competitive son of a gun.”
And quite talented.
“He was the best the Advertiser ever had for all-around ability,” Quebedeaux said.
If it had been up to Timothy, he never would’ve gone into journalism.
“I wanted to be a school teacher and teach history,” said Timothy, whose parents, Philip Sr. and Janette, were both longtime public school teachers in Rapides Parish. “My dad talked me out of it. He told me he would not help me with college if I went into education.”
Timothy was part of the first sophomore class at Alexandria Senior High, but due to a parish-wide court order, was forced to finish high school at Tioga High School. It proved to be a turning point in his life.
“As a senior, I met Donna Howell, who was an English teacher,” said Timothy. “She said I had a gift for writing and I should try to be a writer.”
Timothy already knew he was going to college at Northwestern State, where both of his parents went.
“I majored in journalism and minored in English,” he said. “I thought I was going to be on TV. I was majoring in broadcast journalism. My advisor, Ezra Adams, questioned why I got into journalism. He said I didn’t have a propensity for words. That made me bow my neck and get to work and prove him wrong … when someone tells me I can’t do something, it’s engrained in me that I’m gonna do that.”
Timothy worked for the school paper, Current Sauce, as well as in the sports information department, and he called Demon baseball games on the radio. Finally, Dan McDonald, a 2017 DSA recipient, asked Timothy to be the Current Sauce’s sports editor. A career took off.
“That was the beginning of it,” said Timothy.
Timothy honed his craft at small weekly papers, mostly in Louisiana: The Natchitoches Times, The Red River Journal (Pineville), The Journal-Enterprise (Mansfield), The Beauregard News (DeRidder) and The Centerville Press in Alabama. He also worked for the Monroe News-Star before he moved to Lafayette in 1986.
“That was 13 years of my career,” said Timothy. “We had a small staff – me, Kevin and Bruce Brown. Fifty-four schools that played football and 64 that played football and basketball. We stayed busy.”
“During all of those long hours in the early years together, we learned how to make covering sports fun while we were working our tails off,” said Foote.
It was in Lafayette where Timothy honed the skills that would make him one of the top sports page designers in the South, let alone the state of Louisiana.
“Philip always had more of an attachment to the layout side of being a sports writer,” said Foote. “That’s fading away now in many places in our industry, but the lesson from that was when something special is taking place, that big moment or that big achievement should be reflected in the page’s layout.”
“Philip is the best combination of a journalist I know – writing, headlines, layouts,” said Quebedeaux. “He’s a complete newspaper man. Today, there aren’t many. Even when he was working (in sports), there weren’t many. Rarely, do you find one person who is good at all of these.”
“At a weekly, you always have to do your own makeup,” Timothy said. “As my career progressed, technology progressed with me. I got to Lafayette and it was the first time I saw a computer capable of designing a paper. That’s when I really got into it.
“When I started out, I did everything because you had to – I wrote, laid it out, took photos, developed photos, put the paper on the press, took it off the press. I even took the papers and dropped them off at the post office. When I got to Lafayette, it was the first time I didn’t have to do all of that.”
Timothy wasn’t looking to move when he left Lafayette for The Town Talk in Alexandria. He was hired to cover high school sports and outdoors, but quickly became the assistant sports editor. It was also a chance for him to enjoy more time with his wife, Joanne, and their three children – Joshua, Jessica and Jacob.
“Following my father’s death in 1997, I moved back to Alexandria to be close to my mother,” he said. “I don’t know how much I helped her over the years, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise for me. After years of covering other people’s children, I was finally able to watch my own kids as they competed in athletics and school. I was able to teach them to hunt and fish, coach their summer ball teams, and just watch them grow up.”
Timothy also served a crucial two-year term as president of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association shortly after moving toThe Town Talk. It was under his watch as president the movement began for a permanent building to house the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
“Philip was rock-solid in crucial times when we were building the support for funding the museum,” said Doug Ireland, executive director of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. “Not only did he provide sage advice, he had relationships around the state that provided us with valuable insight and influence.
“At that pivotal juncture, we made some strategic decisions, notably moving the induction activities to Shreveport-Bossier City for three years that were misunderstood by many people who cared about the Hall of Fame. Philip stayed the course and calmed the waters.”
Ironically, Timothy has never stepped foot inside the Hall of Fame since it opened in 2013 on Front Street in Natchitoches. The first time he will do so will be in June during the induction weekend.
Despite the numerous awards he has won – more than 80 national, regional and state awards at last count – Timothy remains grounded in what is important: his faith and his family. He serves as managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Messageand teaches Sunday School at his church in Deville; he’s also a proud grandfather of two and has another grandbaby on the way.
And he is thankful for the legacy he has left around the state as a writer and editor who focused on high school athletes.
“I covered them when they were nobodies,” he said. “I was there as they developed into the athletes they became.
“After I went to The Town Talk, I got a card from a guy asking if I was the Philip Timothy from the Red River Journal. He wrote, ‘I have everything you ever wrote about me in a book.’ That meant the world to me. It showed me I made an impact. I wanted to make an impact as a teacher, but this was the next best thing.”