Remembering Glenn McCutchen, Mentor and Friend

Print this entry

I met Glenn McCutchen for lunch at a café on Timberland Drive in Lufkin in late August 1990. He had moved from Atlanta, Georgia, where he was executive editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to become editor and publisher of The Daily Sentinel in Nacogdoches. I had been the editorial page editor of the Lufkin Daily News across the Angelina River for just more than a year. Both papers were owned by Cox Newspapers, headquartered in Atlanta. I was about to turn 35, and Glenn was 46, already blessed with his distinguished gray hair and beard, piercing blue eyes peering behind rimless glasses. He looked the part of a small-town Southern newspaper publisher — tall and dignified, with a deep Georgia accent.

Over lunch, Glenn talked about journalism, why he had decided to move from a metro daily to a small community newspaper, and that he needed a managing editor he could rely upon to cover the news fairly and objectively. Then he offered me the job, which meant I would run the Sentinel’s newsroom and report to him. We shook hands on it. And then he said this:

“There are 1,438 managing editors of daily newspapers in the United States. (I don’t actually remember the number he used, but that’s close.) That is a small club. Don’t screw this up,” he said with a smile. But I knew he meant it. Glenn cared fiercely about honest, unbiased journalism. The good news is that I did as well.

On that hot August day, half a lifetime ago, a friendship was born that endured until Glenn died in Portland, Oregon, on April 5 after a short fight with cancer. He was 80. I mourn for the loss, just one of many folks who considered him to be both mentor and friend.

My Beautiful Mystery Companion came to love Glenn as well, after he retired in January 2008. I succeeded him as publisher of the Longview News-Journal and met her the following month. It was the third newspaper where I followed him as publisher, after Nacogdoches and Lufkin. Glenn and I remained close after his retirement; he stayed in Longview for several years before moving to Frisco. My BMC and I would get together with him regularly to eat, talk politics and current events, often meeting in Tyler. Glenn jokingly threatened to run off with my BMC. I think he was joking but can’t be sure. And she might have taken him up on his offer. That is how close they became over the past 16 years.

Glenn was one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and interesting people I have had the privilege of knowing. I owe my modestly successful newspaper career to him. He taught me how to structure a story that still had holes in it and figure out how to find the missing pieces. He stuck to his principles with ferocity and was unafraid to voice his opinion, usually reached after careful thought.

I was talking to a former Atlanta colleague the other day, who mentioned Glenn took great pride in running the only newspaper in Texas to endorse Al Gore in 2000 over Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Even I — who have never voted for a Republican for president in my life and have no intention of changing my ways now — endorsed Bush while running the Daily Sentinel. I figured (wrongly) that it was not worth the aggravation, since Bush was wildly popular in Texas and was going to easily win the state.

Glenn moved to Portland in 2022 to be closer to two of his four children, who live there. My BMC, daughter Abbie, and I visited him there last spring. As always, he was the congenial host, picking us up at the airport even though it was relatively late and taking us to dinner. Abbie served as his personal GPS. Glenn referred to her as his “pathfinder.” We spent one lovely day traveling through the Columbia River Gorge, stopping to marvel at the “wall of falls,” including the majestic Multnomah Falls. We slipped into Washington State to eat lunch at a tiny town with the Cascade Mountain range as the backdrop. I am grateful we had that time together as we mourn his passing.

I hope we remain close to his children: Warren, Sara, Will and Kate. Glenn fiercely loved his kids and held a group phone call with them every Sunday. They all traveled extensively nearly every Christmas — to Prague, Ireland, skiing in New England, and other adventures. He was rightfully proud of all of them, who are all accomplished in disparate ways.

I will close with one of my favorite Glenn McCutchen stories. A Nacogdoches city commissioner unwisely proposed, in order to cut costs, that the local library start charging residents to use it. We thought that was a flat-out goofy idea. At Glenn’s behest, I wrote an editorial excoriating the commissioner, suggesting perhaps the fire and police could sell corporate sponsorship decals on fire trucks and police vehicles, like the NASCAR drivers Glenn liked to watch. The commissioner came storming into Glenn’s office. I hung back where I could hear but not be seen.

“I ought to kick your a**!” the commissioner said.

Glenn rose slowly from behind his desk, towering over the commissioner, who was about my height.

“I just want you to know you ain’t gettin’ no virgin,” Glenn said. The commissioner turned around and abruptly left.

Glenn and I laughed every time I told that story. I hope it brings a chuckle to you as well, especially if you knew Glenn.

Rest easy, Glenn, and thank you for your friendship and sage advice over the decades.

Print this entry

Leave a reply

Fields marked with * are required