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Article 35: April 16, 2023
Call the editor by Bruce Willingham

A good, long run

Editor’s note. There are probably some things that need to be said about this series. First, if people who hate us kill me, the sad truth is they will likely accomplish much of what they want. Chris and his family have been through hell for over a year now because of the lies coming from this corrupt sheriff’s department, and if I am gone they will likely sell their home and move to where they can get more uplifting careers in music. With both Chris and me gone, Gwen would likely operate a far less aggressive paper that doesn’t report on government corruption, and she might even start seeking a buyer.

On the other hand, if someone hurts my son or his family, my every waking moment and every day would be dedicated to bringing the people responsible to justice. Never a good idea to wound a bear. I’m sure many of you would have the same reaction to someone hurting your son or daughter.

My family has lived in this county about 120 years, and my wife’s family a few years less than that. Gwen and I love this place and its people. We are especially fond of people whose lives are “walking the walk” of their religious beliefs.

Two couples for whom this is the case are Walter and Diana Hamilton, and Ken and Debbie Farley. Both have weathered some tough times, but their faith never wavered. Their lives of public service and private compassion are a genuine inspiration.

Another example: There are many women in our communities who spend most of their days helping people who are suffering difficult times. In an increasingly dark world, the light of their faith heartens those who know them and see their actions.

We even like some people who dislike us. The most obvious example is District Attorney Mark Matloff. His job is a high-stress, tough one, and in some ways, is similar to the newspaper’s job. We carry names in court reports and on our front pages, and often those people and/or their relatives hate us for their names unpleasantly appearing.

The D.A.’s job, putting people with bad behavior behind bars, is similar in that respect. Over the years, more and more relatives of criminals dislike him.

Now in this case, you are going to hear public officials at the sheriff’s department say absolutely horrible and crude things about Matloff. When they are both in law enforcement, you have to wonder why. Here’s the reason, as you will see and hear in the April 18, 2023 edition of the McCurtain Gazette from Alicia Manning. Not once or twice but six times Matloff has asked officials upstate to investigate the leadership of this sheriff’s department, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. The D.A. can’t do it alone. “They don’t care,” Manning says of the state officials. “They don’t care what happens.”

So remember this: The reason they hate Mark Matloff so much is because of his integrity. The reason they hate us is because of ours. Imagine what it will feel like for the district attorney when he reads and hears the words in today’s paper, and for the judges as well. They are simply trying to serve the public in a place they love. They don’t need this hatred coming from their own sheriff’s department, but this is what our county has become.

We’ve been in this business for 43 years, and in case I can’t tell you later, I want to tell you now: Thanks. I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything. It’s been a good, long run, and we are immensely grateful to you.