My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twenty Four

A project that shows a celebrity to be a good man. A good father. A good provider. And a strong support system.

That was the goal. That’s why I started writing these columns because I wanted to show that an actor of some accomplishments, my dad, also was a good provider. Celebrities take such a hard knock in today’s rough-and-tumble world of internet scorching, I wanted to show a decent and generous man: My dad. A father as well as a husband and a famous actor. His generosity over the years was awe inspiring. He was always there for me.

I have been through some difficult times. No question about that. Dad was always nearby to bail me out. The obvious questions: What if he had’ve left me alone? Would I have matured faster without his help? Was dad’s help, indeed, that? Help or hindrance?

Yes, sometimes the columns have been more about my difficulties than dad’s direct involvement in whatever challenge I was facing. Lately, I’ve begun to read these past 23 columns and realize they are about a guy who just couldn’t get his act together. A loser. A flake. A whiner. I got myself into scrapes and my dad bailed me out of them.

There has been much darkness in my life. Self-propelled, of course, but darkness nonetheless. The answer to the question of help or hindrance came to me one day more than three decades after I had left the drunken madness behind.

I hadn’t had a drink of any kind of alcohol for going on 28 years on this day around 2005 when I was showing my dad around the office of my boss at the time: The Sheriff of Los Angeles County. My life had indeed changed.

In those 28 ensuing years I had graduated with honors from a four-year university in two years with a bachelor’s degree. I had raised a family, worked as a journalist for more than two decades, sometimes at large newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and sometimes at small papers like publisher of the La Canada Valley Sun, a small weekly in the foothills above Glendale, California. I had done radio and television as a journalist. My life had turned around entirely from those dark days when I was 27. Now, I was showing my dad around this majestic office. I was 55. My dad was 83.

This was the office of the highest ranking law enforcement officer in Los Angeles County. The man who ran one of the largest jail system in the nation; provided security for one of the largest court systems in the nation; one of the largest transit systems in the nation; more than 20 contract cities where the Sheriff’s Department provided law enforcement services, including patrol, detectives, homicide, to name just a few; one of the largest community college districts in the nation; and one of the largest crime labs in the nation. This is just a sampling of what the Sheriff’s Department did under the administration of Leroy David Baca, my boss.

A man, by the way, with a heart as big as all outdoors. A man of justice, integrity, compassion and a lifelong commitment to humanity and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Upon his retirement, he’d spent 49 years in Los Angeles County as a deputy sheriff in one rank or another. In fact, he used to say to me his life was complete the day he “became a deputy Sheriff.”

Sheriff Baca is going through a difficult time right now, but in the end, the measure of this man will win the day. He is now, and will always be, my friend.

So, here I am with my dad walking around the Sheriff’s office. It was a weekend or some other non-business day because the office was quiet. Me and my dad walked around, looking at all the memorabilia behind huge glass cases. Impressive. Massive. Awards, plaques, photos, historical pieces. So much more, but an office of an important man. His office was large, as you might expect. He had five secretaries, if memory serves, as well as a full contingent of other staffers. I had an office just down the way from his main office. I was Sheriff Baca’s senior media advisor; a title thrust upon me by one of his other senior advisors. I wrote speeches, press releases along with myriad other duties for the Sheriff. I was also his spokesman.

Me, this lost and confused boy who had a dad in his corner, had grown into a man of substance; now working directly for the man that ran the very same jails I had been an inmate. A dad that never gave up on his son. Help or hindrance? When my dad put his hand on my shoulder as we walked through these halls of justice and said with misty eyes, “I’m proud of you, son,” the answer was clear.

I’m going to be leaving this project now. After 24 columns – all of which can be found at stevewhitmore.wordpress.com – I believe you get the idea of a dad, a celebrity, an actor, but most important, a man of character. My dad was all of that. I thank God for the James Whitmore’s of this world.

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About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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One Response to My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twenty Four

  1. Alana Carson (Schlich on FB) says:

    Steve, I always love reading what you write and remembering the great but all-too-brief time we shared at the Valley Sun – so does Lesilee, who you may remember as production manager and food editor. We talk of you often, of the challenges of making sure the jar on your desk was full of cherry Tootsie Pops, of the stories you shared with us about your dad and the characters you met and situations you endured over the years, all as unforgettable as your dad. You’re part of that legacy, my friend, and as your gratitude to your dad knows no bounds, mine for you is equally limitless for having given me a crack at being a columnist and appreciating my contribution. I enjoyed it enormously and – V.S. or no – I still write every day, with your encouragement at my back. Thank you, my friend…I wish you well (although I sure wish I knew where you were and that we hadn’t lost contact).

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