Personal privilege here: I just learned about the death last week in Fayetteville of Jerol Garrison, 86. He was a good man and that’s as high as praise gets in my book.
By the time I met Jerol, his newspaper career at the Arkansas Gazette was behind him. He had moved to the communications department at UA-Little Rock and later became director of communications for what is now Entergy Arkansas. Has there ever been a more open, honest and meticulously factual public relations representative? He’d volunteer bad news about his employer rather than wait for it to be discovered. Kind, soft-spoken and quick to laugh. That was Jerol.
I hope his widow, Sally, and daughters appreciate an anecdote from Ernest Dumas, a former Gazette colleague, who informed friends about his death.
Jerol came to the Gazette in 1958 after getting a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Arkansas and a masters at Northwestern University outside Chicago. He covered the federal courts and federal agencies for many years and the Arkansas legislature as well.
He is the only journalist I’ve ever known who I’m quite sure never made a single mistake, not even a transposed number. He was a fanatic about accuracy, enraging sources on the federal beat and the Capitol and the editors at the Gazette with his nitpicking questions and painstaking work on every story.
Some of you may remember the late evening when Bob Douglas, the news editor who was trying to make the second-edition deadline, came back once again with his metal pica ruler tapping on Jerol’s desk. “Jerol, did anyone ever tell you that we’re a daily paper, not a weekly?” Jerol, the mildest-mannered person I’ve ever known, had enough. When Bob walked back to the rim Jerol picked up his old Underwood and sent it crashing to the floor. He turned, stormed into Martha Douglas’s office and slammed the door. We nearly had a heart attack. Then the whole newsroom burst into applause and cheers. Jerol finally came back out, picked up his indestructible Underwood and went back to work fixing the perfect story.