When we worked together at The State, Chris Roberts used to bring me a jelly doughnut every Aug. 16 in honor of the King.
He’s not in a position to do that now — he’s in Alabama — but he did show he was thinking of me by sending this:
He went on to say that he would have tried to get a doughnut to me, but the local Krispy Kreme got knocked down by a tornado back in April.
So I sent him a picture of one.
Chris knows how special this day is to me, because I was one of the first people in the world to hear the awful news in 1977:
MY GOOD FRIEND Les Seago was the man who told the world that the King was dead. But before he told the world, he told me.
I’ve always appreciated that, even though it didn’t do me much practical good at the time.
On Aug. 16, 1977, Les was the chief Memphis correspondent for The Associated Press. I was the slot man on the copy desk of The Jackson Sun, which meant I had been at work since 5:30 a.m. By early afternoon, the paper was on its way to readers. I had also been a stringer for Les for years, and I was used to his calls to see what was going on in our area. But he didn’t have time for that this day.
Was it too late to get something in? he demanded. Well, yeah, it was, just barely, but why…?
It looks like Elvis is dead, he said, explaining quickly that he had a source, an ambulance driver from Baptist Hospital, who told him he had just brought Elvis in, and he was pretty sure that his passenger had been beyond help. Gotta go now, ‘bye.
He must have broken all speed records getting it confirmed, because I had just begun to tell my co-workers when the “bulletin” bell went off on the wire machine as it hammered out the news.
Les himself was found dead at his home two years ago [this column ran on this day in 2006], at age 61. Though his career had spanned many years and he had covered Martin Luther King’s assassination, The Associated Press identified him in his obituaryas the man “who filed the bulletin on the death of Elvis Presley.” His ex-wife Nancy said “He wasn’t wild about Elvis, but he was glad that he did break the story.” That was Les…
Long live the King.