John is the fellow with the hangdog expression seated on the stool, holding his ever-present cup of machine coffee. John, who died of an aortic aneurysm around '96, was known for wearing essentially the same thing to work everyday: navy blue sportcoat, dress shirt buttoned to the toppermost of the poppermost, no tie, spit-shine black Roper boots and usually khaki trousers (he threw us all for a loop this day by wearing jeans.) He was a curious character. The boy had a such dour world-view that one afternoon during lunch, it was decided that he should have been a motivational speaker. Later that afternoon, flyers of his mug shot with the slogan "Think Positive" suddenly began appearing around the 4th floor newsroom, in the elevators, in bathroom stalls, and so forth. Soon thereafter, a John Whitmire Day was declared, so those that were so inclined decided to do their best to dress like John. This photo is not a complete sampling of those that participated since news had to be reported and meetings had to be attended.
It was gallows humor, of a kind, but who could really blame us? None of us had received a pay raise in years, yet there we still were, though our ranks were beginning to turn over more rapidly. John's ambition in life was to live in a hotel and write cheap paperback novels about crime and detectives and other such Philip Marlowe-style prose.
During his second and last tour of duty at The Post, he accomplished the former, bunking at The Houston House downtown.
He wrote some novels, or at least took an honest stab at them, but never had one published to our knowledge before he suddenly passed away one night at his San Antonio apartment, after he joined the ranks of those fleeing the failing Post.
His wife, a lawyer whom he met while covering a story about the homeless in Houston (as we recall to the best of our recollection), reported to us that he complained of indigestion that night as they lay in bed. It was much more than that, as we now know, and he died on the operating table.
Personally, I should report that I first met John while stationed in the one-man Galveston bureau of The Houston Post in the early 1980s. I was the bureau chief (get it, one-man bureau?) and he was working at the newspaper in Texas City. We met at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Galveston Press Club, which essentially was a beer drinking bullshit session at someone's home. John introduced himself and mentioned a story I had written in The Post that he enjoyed reading. It was about a guy, George Pressley, who bore a resemblance to James Young, a guitarist/vocalist with the rock band Styx. Pressley managed to pass himself off as Young in the Hitchcock area of Galveston County and in due course was convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl "who fell prey to his charade," reported Rolling Stone magazine on Page 18 of the July 9, 1981 issue (Margot Kidder is on the cover.) I ran across a copy of that edition of Rolling Stone the other day while rummaging through old stuff, which included the photo above this posting, which led to what you're reading now.
I kept the copy of the magazine all these years since I authored the story in Rolling Stone, which was a rehash of the story I already wrote for The Post.
I probably should have given Whitmire a cut of the $350 fee that Rolling Stone gave me, since Whitmire suggested I should try to peddle the story to the fabled rock mag. Since I didn't cut Whitmire in on that deal, maybe this remembrance of him will make up for that. He'd prefer the cash, though.