By Chris Yow
Hard work is important to be successful at any endeavor, but for those most successful, a support system to help along the way is integral.
Such was the sentiment Thursday night during the Tennessee Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“It takes a village,” was a consistent phrase throughout a number of inductees speeches — and the village for Maurice Patton, Teresa Walker and Tommy Bryan included each other.
Patton, who currently serves as the editor of this website, has spent his entire career in Middle Tennessee, the place he has always called home. Beginning in his hometown of Franklin, where he began his career with The Review Appeal, and then at The (Nashville) Tennessean, Patton was able to tell the stories of Tennesseans with a unique perspective.
During those formative early years in Franklin, Patton said he leaned heavily on colleagues nearby, including Bryan.
“When I first started, I don’t know that I didn’t call Tommy about something at least once a week,” Patton said during his acceptance speech.
“I know if I picked up the phone and needed something, a gamer or whatever, I didn’t have to worry about it,” Bryan said. “He’s one of the best.”
The village mentality in journalism was characterized perfectly by emcee Joe Williams, who recalled how longtime racing scribes would fight almost daily to beat one another to a story, but would drive to and from the track together.
Bryan and Walker were members of the 2020 class, but the induction ceremony was postponed due to COVID-19, creating a special night for the TSWA with a larger than normal class.
“This was unusual for us,” TSWA president JoJo Freeman said. “But it was a joy to have all of these people in one room together. So many of them are interconnected. For all of them to go in together, it was a special moment.”
“If anything good came from the pandemic,” Patton said, “it was that I got the opportunity to be inducted alongside Tommy Bryan and Teresa Walker.”
Walker is the first female sportswriter to be inducted into the organization’s hall of fame, which she called a distinct honor.
“I’m very aware of June Stewart and Debby Jennings being the first women (honored for their work as athletic media relations directors at Vanderbilt and Tennessee, respectively), but being the first female sportswriter inducted means the world.
“Trying to help pave the path in this state for other women means a lot.”
Walker and fellow 2020 inductee Mark Wiedmer noted the hard work Patton — the first African-American journalist honored by the organization — has put in through his career.
“Mo Patton is one of the hardest working people in this business,” Wiedmer said during his speech while speaking of his personal connection to the other inductees.
“He works so hard and is so good at his craft, it’s really nice to see it recognized in this fashion,” Walker said. “He’s been one of my friends and supporters, and I’ve always had him as someone I knew I could talk to.”
Also inducted in the 2021 class were former Tennessean sports editor Larry Taft and ex-Lee University athletic media relations director George Starr.
As Patton said in his speech, good work is good work, “no matter where you do it, who you do it for or how many times you get fired despite doing it.”