Jim Lynn

independent journalist

‘March for Our Lives’ draws large crowd in Columbus (The Washington Post)

Here is a consolidated file of live coverage of the “March for Our Lives” event in Columbus, part of the Post’s “live updates” real-time coverage from around the nation.  March 24, 2018.

Wondering how many will march in conservative Georgia city
Vivian Anderson drew her own sign for the March in Columbus, Ga. (Jim Lynn)

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A dozen organizers, setting up a stage and conducting sound checks in the leafy median of the downtown shopping and theater district, said they were anxious to see how many would attend the march in this conservative Southern community of 200,000.

Six-year-old Vivian Anderson was ready to wave her hand-drawn sign — after she goes to ballet class first.

“This is a family thing,” said her mother, Alexa Johnson-Anderson. “The fact that my kids are having to do lockdown drills — they just know they have to be quiet. But as a parent, that should not be the norm. It’s something, to think kids at this age have to go through that.”

Johnson-Anderson said she wanted the Columbus rally to draw attention to gun violence in all settings. “It’s not just in schools,” she said. “It’s all over.”

In Georgia, questioning his affiliation as a Republican
Marching in Columbus, Ga. (Jim Lynn)

COLUMBUS, Ga.— By 11:30 a.m., about 300 people filled a block of the main downtown drag. Organizers described it as a good (though not overwhelming) crowd, for a small city that split nearly evenly between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Jessica McClain, 23, traveled an hour from Americus,Ga., adjacent to Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains. She held a sign that said “Enough,” with the names of the hundreds killed at Parkland, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Virginia Tech and Columbine in small, handwritten script.



The group listened to a half-dozen brief speeches, including from 14-year-old Jessica Nicole Roberts, who talked about looking forward to her 15th birthday and all who would never see theirs. She followed a soulful performance of “Forever Young” by local duo Chase and Amanda Eiland.

Sam Wellborn, 76, said that he too has “had enough.” He’s a prominent local banker and represents the area on the state transportation board.

“We’ve got to do something to change. And personally, I’m no longer going to support any candidates who don’t support what they’re talking about here today. The NRA has a grip on politicians, and they need to be ashamed. Not the NRA, the politicians,” Wellborn said. “I’ve always thought of myself as a Republican, but I’m beginning to question that.”


In the heart of the South… 

Sammy and Merry Taylor (Jim Lynn)

Sitting on the edge of a planter with her husband, Merry Taylor, 68, said, “This is the South, but today is a day when we feel we can express our views for once.”

Her husband Sammy Taylor, a retired law enforcement officer, said his friends and former colleagues are split on the subject.  “I’ve always been an advocate of gun control— it just makes sense,” he said. “Officers don’t like to see these guns on the streets. When you’re on duty, you’re for gun control. But when you’re off duty, those views can’t be brought out with your conservative friends.”

From a separate story … 

In Columbus, Ga., the theme of a rally that was larger than expected seemed to be that, even in the South, gun control can be a viable cause.

“This is very significant,” organizer Carolyn Weinbaum said. “This many people in this community in this part of the country. The open question is where do we take it from here, as a community.”

Nick Rulon, a student at Columbus State University College of the Arts, said he planned to attend the rally in Atlanta.

“But when I found out there was a rally going on in Columbus, I knew it was much more important to be a part of the dialogue here, in my community,” he said.



The crowd grew to an estimated 400-500 and got considerably louder as the speeches ended and the marching began, the volume of chants of “no more” enhanced by the brick facades along downtown streets. The march passed by hundreds of onlookers, drawn downtown by warm spring weather and a food truck festival. Several gave thumbs ups, several gave dismissive waves, none shouted anything supportive of gun rights.  The size of the crowd, while modest, was significant for Columbus, rarely in its history the site of serious political protest.  Annual events attended by few local residents in the early 1990s protested the U.S. Army’s training of South American soldiers at what was then known as the School of the Americas, but those events faded in more recent years.

Closing the event was Gwyn Rush, an outspoken Columbus High School student who has emerged as a leader in the local student effort.

“I’ve grown up in a world where mass shootings at concerts, churches and schools are accepted as a necessary reality. Seven of the 10 deadliest mass shootings have happened in my lifetime. This is unacceptable,” she said, her voice breaking.  “Yes, the gun lobby is a significant obstacle, and the fight for change will not be easy. But if we continue too fall into a cycle of defeatism, giving up before we even try, aren’t we to blame too?  That is why my generation is saying ‘enough is enough.’ That is  why we’re pleading never again.  And that is why we’re here to march for our own lives and the lives of our peers. This is only the  start.”

Gwyn, who expects to attend Agnes Scott, a liberal arts college in Atlanta, said after she climbed off the stage that Parkland has shaking her and her peers into paying attention to politics. “We need to cause change,” she said of fellow teen-agers. “We can’t wait for anyone else to do it.”




Dreaming big: Phenix City voters need bold, not bland


Voters deserve to know who’s willing to dream big

COLUMBUS LEDGER-ENQUIRER (McClatchy Newspapers), 3 July 2016

By Jim Lynn

Two men in line at the Piggly Wiggly at Phenix Plaza struck up a conversation, talking around two others.  “Hey! When did you get out?” the one with a can of sardines asked the other.

“Last month,” the second man yelled back.  The two went on to laugh about their months in the slammer and asked about each other’s families.  The half-minute exchange made others in line smile, but it also reflected in a deeper way some of the challenges facing Phenix City – and Phenix City voters – this election year.

Phenix City’s mayoral and city council election is August 23.  Mark your calendars.

In this and in most local campaigns, candidates steer clear of anything that looks remotely like an issue.  Keep it bland, shake a lot of hands, stir no controversy.  Hand out brochures that say where you went to high school and where you go to church.  It’s the plain-vanilla, “I want to move Phenix City forward” approach, a cynical strategy that’s downright condescending to voters.  Our community deserves better.

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Bridging ‘Islands of Innovation’ at CSU … Chris Markwood hopes to use a subtle leadership style to improve what works (Columbus and the Valley magazine, February 2016)

By Jim Lynn

So he probably wasn’t the best teacher on campus that summer.

Chris Markwood had just moved his tassel at his Southwest Baptist University graduation ceremony moments before Larry Whatley cornered him. An associate professor of political science, Whatley told Markwood that another instructor was unable to teach a summer class and asked if he’d be willing to fill in.

Markwood had been accepted at the University of Missouri law school, thinking of a career in law and politics. But the summer adventure sounded like a way to earn cash for law school and he accepted. He had been an undergraduate teaching assistant to Whatley and knew the material well.

“So I taught the class,” he remembered. Just 20 years old, many of the students were his age or younger. “It was probably not the best class I ever taught.”

But it was enough, becoming one of those unpredictable turning points in life. Read the rest of this entry »

A love of art and history brings new museum director to Columbus (Columbus and the Valley Magazine, May-June 2015)

By Jim Lynn

Marianne Richter, age 7, stood in a large, second-floor gallery at the Louvre and stared. Before her was a series of 24 paintings depicting the late 16th and early 17th Century life of Marie de Medici, the wife of King Henry IV of France. The Louvre was a must-see stop on a month-long family trip to Europe, and others had moved on. Marianne and her mother stayed behind.

It wasn’t the Mona Lisa that captured Marianne’s imagination, or the iconic Venus de Milo. Instead, the youngster was spellbound by the panels full of colorful, allegorical images by Peter Paul Rubens. They seemed to Marianne “like a storybook fairy tale,” dwarfing her in their size, their Baroque figures curved and draped in flowing fabric as if caught in mid movement.

The half hour with the paintings given the regal title of “The Apotheosis of Henri IV and the Proclamation of the Regency of Marie de Médicis” set Marianne on a path of fascination both with art and with history.

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Ragtime — Reflections on the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s history on 12th Street and its historic move (Columbus and the Valley Magazine, January 2015)

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Ragtime —
Reflections on the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s history on 12th Street 

By Jim Lynn

Every day at 10 a.m. Every single weekday, Fairy Lee Hunter would polish the brass stair rail that led from the entrance of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer building to the second floor newsroom. We would bound past her, often two steps at a time, those of us in our 20s and early 30s, wondering fleetingly why she polished the railing every morning.

No time to ask, though. Deadline! There was typically a rush to grab one of the glowing, green terminals with their loudly clacking keyboards before someone else did. In the pre-PC, pre-newsroom layoff days, there could at times be more reporters than terminals. Planners threaten to widen 13th Street through Wynnton! Shenanigans on the Phenix City Council! Speed traps in outlying counties! Fort Benning gets a new commander! Carlton Gary is charged! Mayors promise riverfront development will happen “soon”!

But every day, Hunter, an older, African American woman wearing a crisp blue and white uniform, would smile and continue her methodical polishing. Gone were yesterday’s fingerprints and smudges like yesterday’s papers, replaced with an impeccable shine for a new day and new deadlines for the afternoon Ledger and the morning Enquirer. Turning the flight of stairs, a large window let in sunlight that seemed to set Hunter’s handrail ablaze. Outside the window, an American flag on a pole mounted above the entrance would catch the breeze.

There was a lot of pride in that stair rail. A lot of pride in that building, and in the work that was being done over the decades at typewriters, then terminals, then computers. Patterned on a bank building in central Florida, the 1930, Mediterranean-styled structure features a weathervane that always points to “NEWS,” no matter which way the wind blows.

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‘You Guys Are My Life’ … Ron Anderson’s Journey (Columbus and the Valley Magazine, January 2015)

academy 1

‘You guys are my life’
Ron Anderson’s journey

By Jim Lynn

As Ron Anderson opens a rehearsal for the musical “Shrek,” his focus is not on the usual reminders about projecting or where the spikes are or some detail of musical cues. It’s not on when to watch out for prop movements or the need to keep the energy high on stage. But Anderson is not the usual theatre director.

He stands on the floor of the historic Springer Opera House, leans against the edge of the stage, faces the cast and crew sitting in front of him, and proceeds to preach.

“If you see someone backstage you don’t know, make a point to get to know them,” he implores. “That’s why we’re here.” It’s the sermon the almost-minister has been preaching continuously during his 18 years in Columbus. Ron Anderson is all about bringing people together.

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No time for excellence (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)


No Time for Excellence

— A parent’s perspective on high school science research


Special to the Ledger-Enquirer

June 7, 2014

Two things were very clear at the recent Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles. First, a lot of very serious, very credible research is being done by high school students. And second, inspiration and guidance for scientific research ain’t coming from the classroom.
Out of seven million qualifying research projects from around the globe, 1,783 students made it to the international event in mid-May. Project displays filled the L.A. Convention Center in a dozen rows, each the length of a football field.

Walk down one row, there were scores of projects dealing with electrical engineering. Another row, biochemistry. Another, computer science. Seventeen categories in all. And these are not cute projects about which toothpaste gets teeth whiter. These are years-long work in … statistical analysis of cancer-promoting genes, remediation of environmental disasters, exploration of synthetic antibiotics, development of a faster test for kidney disease, optical computing, spine stabilization for children with scoliosis, and on and on.

But one floor above this brainfest was a conference room crammed with teachers who agreed it’s virtually impossible to foster this sort of work in today’s schools

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From dress to success … Celebrating 125 years (Columbus and the Valley magazine, January 2014)

By Jim Lynn

From a dress, a savings account.  From a torn hem, a culture of the heart.  From $60, an institution that became a cornerstone in the development of a community.

A woman working in the Eagle textile mill in 1873 had no place to keep her savings.  She said if she kept money in her storage trunk, presumably in a boarding house, someone was sure to steal it.  So she stored cash in the hem of her dress.  But the dress got caught in a machine one day. A supervisor quickly freed the woman by slicing through her dress with his knife, and $60 in “greenbacks” fell to the floor.  It was a lot of money when the highest wage for workers at the mill was $1.50 a day.

Columbus industrialist and Eagle Mill founder William H. Young offered to keep the money for the woman in the company safe.  The same perk was soon offered to other employees, and the mill’s “savings department” was formed.

In one version or another, the story has been told many, many times.  The workplace accident was described in some detail, though, during an 1883 hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor and Capital, which was examining post-Civil War working conditions in the South.  Young testified that the savings department at that point had $1 million in deposits, and 6 percent interest was being paid to its 1,778 depositors.  Other historical records indicate the mill used the deposits for “quick capital.”

“The largest depositor… has $9,128.95, which he has saved out of his surplus earnings since he has been with us, that is, during the past 10 years,” Young told the committee.  “He has a family and has supported his family well, yet his deposits have accumulated to that extent.”

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‘Poet of the world’ calls Columbus home, for a while (Columbus and the Valley magazine, Nov-Dec 2013)

Moscow winters are frigid. And Anzhelina Polonskaya hates the cold.

“I love heat,” Polonskaya says, gesturing outward with both hands.  A noted Russian poet who hasn’t followed the well-worn path of traditional Russian literature, Polonskaya is this year’s Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellow, a position awarded by the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians of Columbus State University.

Sitting outside the Carson McCullers home on a recent evening, the setting sun prompts her to squint, but she seems to welcome the chance to sit in the sunlight nonetheless.  In conversation, through her thick Russian accent, it becomes clear that it’s not just the weather that makes her feel at odds with her country.

“I can’t write at home,” she says.  “There are many, many political problems, and the environment around me is not very quiet.  At night, I write, and at night I can’t write and think about my motherland, and people who are in jail.”

Polonskaya is a member of the Russian PEN-centre, a group of writers publicly critical of the government on human rights issues.  A recent statement from the group opposed the prosecution of a punk rock band on “hooliganism” charges.

“Our country doesn’t change a lot,” she said.  “You can buy glamorous things now, if you have the money.  But people are like they’re looking for a new Stalin.  It’s very sad in a way, very sad, but true.”

Columbus is a far different world.

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Katrina isn’t over (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, May 13, 2007)

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JIM LYNN, Special to the Ledger-Enquirer

Ben Welman and his wife Jonnie never dreamed they’d see the inside of a shelter. Theirs was a comfortable life in suburban New Orleans, children in private school and a home in River Ridge. They never thought they’d lose a race with a hurricane, be forced to spend the night in their car in a parking garage in a town they didn’t know while an unimaginable wind hurled sheets of rain and debris past them all night. Five hours to drive 18 miles. Eight days in a Red Cross shelter. And they never thought they’d call Columbus home.

Joel never imagined a storm would force him out of his modest two-bedroom house, where he cared for his 92-year-old grandmother on a postage-stamp lot in tiny, impoverished Pearlington, Miss. He never thought he’d be living out of his van, then a FEMA trailer. Or that people he didn’t know from a church in Columbus — a town he’d barely heard of — would be helping him get his life back together, nearly 20 months later. But the Welmans and others like them, Joel and others like him, the tiny towns of Pearlington and Waveland and others like them, all are tied to Columbus now. Katrina and its seemingly unending aftermath have forged lifelong bonds through happenstance, acts of kindness, the missions work of local churches and the generosity of Columbus residents.

For a time, Katrina’s havoc and the third world drama of New Orleans wrenched our guts. It ripped the tight-knit fabric of what we thought was America.

But that’s history now. It’s been 20 months since Katrina, and we’ve moved on.

The perpetual storm

America has moved on. But Katrina isn’t over. It’s not over for the Welmans. And not for roughly 100-150 other families who now call the Columbus region home. Not for the communities of the Gulf Coast. And not for the dozens of Columbus-area volunteers who trek back to the region to help rebuild homes, and neighborhoods, and lives.

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