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He'll miss the fist bumps
Johnny Murphy was one of a kind, no doubt
editor's notes

I’ll miss the fist bumps.

Not that I always saw eye to eye with Johnny Murphy, one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and someone I instinctively liked. He started doing the fist bump thing at me when he first got elected to Richmond Hill city council however long ago that was. 

But he hadn’t brought out the fist bump in recent months. I don’t know if that was for health reasons or he was tired of columns I wrote poking fun at Richmond Hill’s sprawl and growth and traffic and the confounded developers I deem responsible.

As recently as a recent TSPLOST vote there were times Johnny Murphy – and for some reason, he’s always Johnny Murphy to me, not just Johnny -- would try to get me to do a story on this or that. And I would try to get him to write a column about it. 

He took me out to lunch once to talk about how he’d fix traffic, and it made sense but I never got the story done because too much other news popped up. That can happen at small papers with small staffs. 

I left the Bryan County News for a while in 2015. When I came back part-time late in 2016 he was sick, but it wasn’t something I asked him about. I figured it was his business and we don’t exactly move in the same social circles. But the first time he saw me back at a public meeting, there came the fist bump and the grin. He did that to others, too, so I’m not claiming I’m special. And I'm not exactly sure what Johnny thought of me, either. 

But the first time I ran across Johnny was in 2006 not long after I took the editor’s job and he read me the riot act over the phone.

This was not long after he’d been described in print by the Savannah Morning News as the King of Richmond Hill and was featured prominently in Georgia Trend magazine. I’d heard plenty about him before that, too. Everybody knew who Johnny Murphy was.  

But I digress. It turned out he’d called to talk to me about a question I had. He’d been put on hold and kept there for some time and he wasn’t happy about that. So he talked, and talked some more, and I listened, then said I hadn’t a clue he’d been put on hold and if I had any questions I’d call him and that was pretty much that. 

I suspect that particular day, like the day we learned Johnny Murphy passed, was a deadline day. Editors at small papers who do their own layout and stories and everything else shouldn’t be allowed to do anything requiring much thought on such days, because we’re so jammed up just trying to get a paper out the door we tend to forget what day it is. The older we get, the more it happens. It happened Wednesday. I first thought it was Tuesday. 

But after I corrected the story and moved on to something else it hit me.

I’m really going to miss Johnny Murphy. And I'll keep his family and friends in my thoughts and prayers. 

Johnny Murphy from what I gather was a first-rate builder and a devoted family man, and if there’s ever a Mount Rushmore of Richmond Hill, then surely Johnny Murphy should be up there, along with men like Henry Ford and Richard Davis.

And if Johnny Murphy believed in an upscale vision of Richmond Hill and South Bryan – one he shared on the pages of the visually stunning magazine called Richmond Hill Reflections, and one that centered around beautiful subdivisions with first-class amenities for the beautiful, prosperous families who would buy them, who am I to criticize? 

Just look around. He did so much worth applauding. 

Sure, Johnny Murphy had his share of critics during the first real estate boom and neighborhood schools brouhaha back around 2006, and later as the recession hit times got tougher for everyone. Johnny Murphy had tough times, too. 

I suppose right up until the end Johnny Murphy probably still had naysayers, those who thought he should've given up politics and “stuck to moving dirt,” as I once heard, only in present tense at the time. 

But you know what?

There are those who sit on the sidelines and those who make things happen. 

Johnny Murphy made things happen.

So, yeah, I’ll miss the fist bumps. And the man who offered them up.

 Whitten is editor of the Bryan County News. 


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