Al Smith. Tim Kelly. David Hawpe. Kentucky has lost three journalism giants in 2021

Al Smith

Tim Kelly

Three stalwarts of Kentucky newspaper history have passed away in 2021.

Al Smith passed away March 19.

Tim Kelly died May 3.

And Monday morning brought news that David Hawpe passed away Sunday evening.

Al and David both served as President of the Kentucky Press Association. And while Tim didn’t serve on the board, he did allow several employees to do so and three of them – Tom Caudill, Kriss Johnson and Peter Baniak – are also Past Presidents of the association.

David has stayed involved in KPA as a Past President helping select newspapers for the KPA Summer Internship Program and as a member of the Kentucky Press Association Legal Defense Fund Committee since 1996.

Here are links to stories on Al and Tim and then memorializing David Hawpe. We also have a story this week by Andrew Wolfson of the Courier-Journal on David’s passing at Courier-Journal story on passing of David Hawpe.

Al Smith’s journalism was one of good faith, now often missing

Obituary: Tim Kelly, retired publisher and editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader

Remembering David Hawpe


David Hawpe

Over almost 38 years, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing more than 1,000 newspaper folks from around the state. Most all of those have come since September, 1983.

But the one I’ve known the longest is David Hawpe. We date back to the summer of 1965. David worked the night shift for the Associated Press, when it was on the third floor of the Lexington Herald and Lexington Leader building on Short Street. The AP bureau chief at the time was Bob Cooper.

I started in the Herald sports department then, located on the fourth floor of the Herald.

It was the start of a long, long friendship. But not only with me. Hawpe was a close friend of many from the Herald sports. Billy Reed, Mike Ruehling, Russ Shain, Gary Yunt, Johnny McGill Jr., Rick Bailey, Lee Mueller, David Vance. Some of them members of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

Every article, every comment about David that I’ve read since he died captured the type of person David Hawpe was.

I can’t do justice to David the way those who worked with him the longest and know the true essence of his beliefs and his commitments.

But I can share two stories of David Hawpe in the younger years, when he was still in journalism school at UK while working nights at the Lexington AP bureau.

Those mentioned above would relive these moments every time we’ve been with Hawpe over the years.

There were the chess and gin rummy tournaments in the small AP office. But it was a gin rummy tournament that led to this memory. Hawpe and Billy Reed were in the finals. Several of us gathered around the desk as they competed. It got near the end, with victory in-hand when Billy pulled out a cigar and in a Red Auerbach way, started to light the cigar to celebrate victory. Hawpe grabbed the cigar, ran out of the office, down three flights of metal stairs with Reed close behind. We followed.

Down the front hallway they went toward the front door and out onto Short Street. Hawpe fell on the sidewalk and cut his head. It turned serious then by having to get Hawpe to the hospital. But imagine David and Billy trying to explain to the Lexington Police what precipitated the cut on David’s head. I don’t know the police had ever heard (or believed) a story of a gin rummy tournament outcome causing such an injury.

The other involved my father when he was sports editor. There are two versions to what caused Dad to throw out/ban/bar David Hawpe from the fourth floor sports department. I can actually believe both of them but I wasn’t present when this happened so I have left it to Hawpe and Reed and Ruehling to tell me.

On high school sports nights, Hawpe would come up to the sports department, gather all the scores that had been called into us and then take them to his office and send over the AP state wire. We were doing all the work in getting the scores and Hawpe had to do nothing but send them out over the teletype. I can see Dad being upset with Hawpe for using us to do his work.

The other story is more believable and probably what really had Hawpe banned/barred/thrown out of the sports department. David wrote for The Kentucky Kernel while at UK and wrote some editorials about how bad the UK football program was. This was back in the days when Charlie Bradshaw was the head coach.

Dad would be critical at times as well but didn’t like others doing the same. So he reacted to Hawpe’s comments by telling the sports staff we were to have nothing to do with “that David Hawpe.”

Whichever version is true, and both may be, it was Billy Reed who went to Dad to mend fences with Hawpe and he did. They befriended each other and Hawpe was welcomed back into the sports department.

Like so many others, I miss David Hawpe already and I’ll miss him during the 2022 General Assembly. David called himself Chief of Staff for Sen. Morgan McGarvey. More likely, he was an “unpaid legislative intern,” getting involved only because of his love for Kentucky and his disdain for many in politics. David would call about legislation and ask KPA’s position. He’d then take that information to Senator McGarvey and tell him how to vote when any of the bills were coming for a vote.

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