Newark Newsman's Scariest Story

by Nat Bodian


Every ex-newspaperman has one or two exciting journalistic recollections that stand out above all others. I have included one or two of my own in these Old Newark memories, but this one--from an ex Newark Evening News reporter -- easily tops anything else I've ever heard. When you read it, I think you will agree.

The Story Begins

The story deals with Bill Gordon, a reporter with the Newark Evening News until its demise. He had been sent South by the Newark News to cover the Civil Rights Movement.

He tells how one reporter had been killed during a clash between US Marshals and students protesting the enrollment of James Meredith at the all-white University of Mississippi.

In all, two had died and seventy five injured in that engagement.

Gordon had entered the sealed-off campus just before the fighting started and began calling his story in to the Newark News from a remote roadside phone booth on the edge of town.

Reporter is Attacked

While he was talking with the Newark News from the booth, suddenly two men broke away from the crowd rampaging through the streets and began attacking Gordon's phone booth with fists and feet.

Gordon was holding his foot against the folding door and begging the Newark News person at the other end of the line to call the Oxford Police Department to send someone to save him.

But it was too late! With glass flying, the door crashed in on him and the huge fist of the taller man descended toward his face.

But suddenly it stopped -- inches from his face.

The man with the fist explained:

"Why, it's Bill Gordon," his eyes wide open.

The Surprise Ending

It turned out that the man with the first was an old Korean War buddy of Gordon's that he hadn't seen or even thought of over the nine intervening years.

His friend wound up standing guard at the booth while Gordon finished calling in his story to the Newark News.

Then they went off together to have a drink and talk over old times.

* * *

Note: This story was recounted in Gordon's retirement memoir that appeared in the Friday, January 2, 2004 Star-Ledger after he had resumed his career at the Star-Ledger and retired after 37 years in journalism.



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