A farewell, and a challenge to conservatives

Last week I published my final regular column for AL.com and its newspapers in Birmingham, Mobile, and Huntsville.

It’s been an honor to write the column for more than four-years, advocating and defending conservative principles every week. I will now devote whatever time and talent I have to other projects supporting our political movement.

But, never short on words, I want to pass along a few more before leaving.

First, to my readers: thank you.

Without readers, even the best writer’s efforts are nothing more than whispers on a gentle wind. With readers, even a mediocre writer’s work can be fanned into a hurricane.

In short, this column would have been nothing without you.

You gave me your attention every single week. You held me accountable, both admonishing me when my thinking, and writing, weren’t clear, while also congratulating me when a column squarely hit the mark. You kept me going.

My conservative readers often told me they appreciated seeing their views represented in the press. Even though we live in an overwhelmingly conservative state, we can feel quite alone, even isolated, if we solely depend upon validation from New York or Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles. And that was part of my mission here: to show my fellow conservatives that they aren’t alone, that their ideas are indeed worth defending and promoting and to keep up the fight.

Interestingly, I quickly learned that some of my most loyal readers are liberals. Some read the column for the same reason I read liberals like Paul Krugman – his stuff drives me crazy. Others read it for the same reason I read liberals like the late Christopher Hitchens – he challenged my thinking and still does.

I never tried to change anyone’s mind, though. I only attempted to be authentic, to push away fears about criticism and rejection and even hatred, and rip open my heart to give you my very best.

You gave me your time, and I gave you my sincere thoughts. I hope you think it was a fair trade.

Second, to the editors of the Alabama Media Group: thank you.

If a writer doesn’t have a vehicle for his words, his efforts are not even a whisper on the wind. And I owe a great deal of gratitude to this company, for it has been a significant part of my life since I was a child.

My mother, Dianne Smith Bryars, began writing for the Mobile Press-Register in the mid-1980s and covered mostly local history and cultural features. I still remember my father running into the living room early one Saturday morning holding a stack of newspapers with an excitement normally reserved for an Alabama touchdown celebration: it was my mother’s first front-page article. My mother went on to write many more articles, and her earnings paid my tuition to attend McGill-Toolen High School.

Years later, the newspaper’s former editor, Mike Marshall, gave me a part-time job in the newsroom while I was still at Spring Hill College. He sensed my eagerness to leave school and begin working so my employment came with one condition. “Drop out of college,” he warned, “and the job is gone.” So I earned my degree and eventually became a full-time staff reporter. He is one of those folks whose indelible influence on me steered my course at a crucial time. For that, thanks will never be enough.

I wasn’t made for the straight news business, though. Most of my contemporaries on staff hoped to be the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. Not me. I wanted to be the next Pat Buchanan. Some ladies in the office even placed an antique soapbox beside my cubicle. “If we have to listen to your right-wing propaganda,” one lady said, “then you might as well have one of these to stand on.”

I eventually left the newspaper in 1999, joined the staff of then-Congressman Bob Riley and had a whirlwind career that took me to Washington, Abu Dhabi, Baghdad, Italy, then Miami before returning to Alabama a few years ago.

That’s when Mike Marshall gave me my second try in newspapers by offering me this weekly column. And while I may have been a poor man’s Pat Buchanan, I’ve had a great time.

My final words are to my fellow conservatives: now it’s up to you.

This column has proven that conservatives can have their views fairly represented … if they’re willing to do the work, and do it well. The editors here never changed a single word in any of my columns. They never asked me not to write about something and they never declined to publish anything I wrote (and I wrote some far-right stuff, arguably). They only asked that it be good and on time.

So, comrades, you can either curse the darkness or light a candle.

Thanks to my readers and my editors, this little candle burned here for more than four years and my heart swells with gratitude.


2 thoughts on “A farewell, and a challenge to conservatives

  1. Mike Gibney

    I will miss your columns Pepper, in a time when news is so divisive it was a pleasure to read someone with a true conservative voice to offer hope to us all.

    Good luck in your new adventure

  2. Shirley Sheehan

    Dear Pepper,

    I am so very sorry to hear that you won’t be writing for the paper anymore. That is where I always read your columns (even though I appreciated receiving them on the computer also). I will miss your writing and being able to read such reasoned thinking. I admire and agree with your values. We need people like you to counteract the horribly misguided words and actions of the liberal left that is so prevalent now. Watching Fox News, it is hard to believe some of the things going on in this country/world.
    Best of luck in whatever you will be doing.
    Shirley Sheehan

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