The gentleman in the newsroom
In the rough-and-tumble world of daily newspaper journalism, it’s rare to find a genuine gentleman, an individual who everyone in the newsroom, from clerk to cub reporter to managing editor, regards with admiration and affection. Leland Moseley Hawes was just such a journalist. The Tampa native died Saturday, a month before his 84th birthday, and we can think of no single reporter or editor of The Tampa Tribune who ever had — and kept — so many friends, both in and outside the newsroom. Fresh out of the University of Florida, Hawes began his reporting career in 1950 with the Tampa Times (at the time the Tribune’s afternoon rival), and his work was so good that two years later he was recruited by The Tribune. It was with this newspaper that, years later, he would emerge as Tampa’s most popular historian, writing a weekly column on the subject for more than 20 years. Yet he didn’t like being called a historian. He insisted he was a journalist.And, as a journalist, he had earned a reputation for accurate, complete and balanced reporting. His editors and his readers trusted him. His colleagues sought to emulate him. And he went out of his way to make each newcomer to the Tribune newsroom feel welcome and a part of the team. Hawes was instrumental in the development of the Tampa Bay History Center. The University of South Florida awarded him an honorary doctorate and the City of Tampa once declared “Leland Hawes Day.” Those encomiums were well deserved, loudly applauded and graciously received. But perhaps more important than all his skills and his success was simply his uncanny ability to cultivate and maintain relationships that enriched the lives of so many grateful friends. Leland Hawes will long be remembered, by friends and strangers alike, not just as a journalist but as a community asset whose unmatched memory of local events remained vibrant to the end.