Editor tells one last story of a fallen storyteller

Bill Duncan<br>


For the Capital Press

True storytellers of this nation are few, yet they are a national treasure of Americana. We have just lost one.

J. Randolph Slocum, who practiced law in Roseburg, Ore., for 30 years before he moved to his native Georgia some years ago, died at age 89 on Nov. 22, 2010, in Atlanta. On that day, I lost a friend and a colleague.

Randy was a columnist for a newspaper magazine section I edited almost from its inception. He delighted readers with his keen sense of humor and was a master of the storytelling technique.

Even after returning to his native Georgia, Randy continued to write his column and dispatch it, as he said, by "Uncle Sam's mule," meaning, of course, the U.S. Post Office. One day I got a letter from Randy telling me he had been diagnosed with macular degeneration and was losing his eyesight. He wanted to stop writing his column.

I vetoed the idea and suggested he do a talking column by dictating it into a tape recorder and that I would transcribe his words for a column. We did this until I got a tape cassette that was typical Randy Slocum. He repeated a single word for the length of the tape: "Finished."

It was Randy's way of saying "enough said." I kept those tapes for years and when I would need a good laugh, I would replay them.

Randy died in the Atlanta Veterans Administration hospital under hospice care. I am told he was still telling stories in the oral tradition up to the time of his death, all to the delight of hospice nurses and aides, a profession that needs a good laugh every now and then.

My friendship was all through the storytelling of his columns. However, there was much more to Randy than his yarn spinning for my readers. As an attorney, he was a prominent member of a judicial committee that wrote new laws governing court procedures. Retired Douglas County Judge Joan Seitz remembers his appearances in her courtroom. His Southern charm and politeness often disarmed the opposing counsel.

One of the judges now sitting on the Douglas County bench, Judge H. Ronald Poole, got his start working as an associate and later became a partner in Slocum's law firm.

He was the legal mentor of attorney Gary Hill, who worked for him first as a law clerk, then as a partner and eventually took over the practice when Randy returned to Georgia.

He may be best remembered as part of the Washington Street trio -- Tom Stovall, the barber; Harry Hill, the cobbler; and Randy Slocum, the lawyer -- who spent many hours swapping stories. They are said to have told some whoppers about their hunting adventures.

When he wasn't spinning yarns, Randy was noted for his astounding gift of reciting poetry from memory.

Randy maintained a home in the Laurelwood residential area for many years.

There was a memorial service at the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., for Randy on Dec. 18, 2010. He is survived by a son, Randy Jr. of Cave Junction, Ore.; a grandson, Kyle; a sister, Marion Hummer of Mississippi; two nephews, Charlie and Terry Hummer; and a devoted friend, Virginia Jennings, who was his caretaker until the end. Virginia Jennings is the cousin of Dixie Bartholomew of Roseburg, who is the daughter of Tom Stovall. Dixie and her husband, Milt, who managed the Douglas County Farm Bureau in Roseburg, visited Randy at the VA hospital in Atlanta in August.

One can't help but wonder if Randy is now practicing law before the great bar in the sky, or just telling his stories to entertain the angels. I'd bet on the latter.

Bill Duncan can be reached by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470.

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