It Is So Very Hard Losing Good People

In the summer of 1970, Charley Thornton hired me to be his assistant in Alabama's sports information office. At that time we had one student assistant, Frank Rumore, and a student who was a part-time summer secretary.

In those days, the Alabama athletics department was pretty lean. Coach Bryant had a secretary. The rest of the football staff had two secretaries, one of whom also handled a lot of Coach Sam Bailey's work. Coach Bailey was the No. 2 man in athletics administration as well as an on-the-field football coach. There was one receptionist and one secretary shared by basketball and track.

To the amazement of almost everyone, Charley was able to talk Coach Bryant into hiring a full-time secretary for our office. And that's how Vera Dowdle came into my life.

Today Vera left us. She fought cancer as long and as hard as she could before the inevitable.

I left Alabama's sports information office in 1979 to start ‘BAMA Magazine. Vera stayed on for another year or so at The University, and then joined me again at ‘BAMA.

I tell people that I worked for Vera for 40 years. In truth, we were partners, working together.

Wednesday night the sad word was spreading among a large number who went through our office as student assistants. They have been an incredibly successful group, and all of them credit Vera as the glue who held them together.

She was known across the nation to sportswriters and sportscasters as the first voice--that wonderful first impression for the Crimson Tide--when they called Alabama's sports information office. I couldn't begin to remember all the old-timers in my profession who I have run into over the years and who have asked about Vera.

We always had a handful of athletes around our office, particularly (it seemed) quarterbacks, hoping to have Vera help them snag some photos from their files. Coaches in every sport, perhaps on the way to my office or Charley's, stopped to visit with Vera first.

She was one of Mrs. Bryant's favorites. Vera's parents lived across the street from the Bryants. It was not unusual for Mrs. Bryant to call Vera and start the conversation, "Are you going to see your mother today?" That meant Mrs. Bryant wanted Vera to pick something up for Mrs. Bryant.

For most of the last 30 years Vera helped hold things together at ‘BAMA.

It's hard for me to believe that the next Alabama football roster I type will be without Vera. We had a system of working together to get a roster done in a hurry. The new way, whatever it may be, won't be as good.

I kidded her about coming to work or back from lunch on the slow clock in her office and leaving for lunch and leaving work by the fast watch on her wrist and she'd smile and continue.

Vera was close to everyone in my family, and we to her family -- her husband Nelson and daughters Kim and Kristi, and over the years the grandchildren.

I get so damn mad about good people suffering. Vera would have calmed me down.

BamaMag Top Stories