before landing a plum job at the Louisville paper,
known as one of the 10 best dailies in the nation.
Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear every other Tuesday.
Following on the heels of recent columns about famous
newspapermen from Sycamore and Waterman, two months ago, my wife
Kay reminded me about her classmate from Sycamore High Class
of 1960, who ranks right up there with other notable DeKalb County
Bob Hill has written 10 books over a lifetime while also
producing a column for the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal
for some 30 years. Now retired, he and his wife (the former Janet
Bieterlen from Sycamore Class of 1961) now own and operate the
Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden in Utica, Indiana.
Talking with Hill by phone, I learned he worked on two
of the same papers I did, after he graduated from Rice University
in Houston, where he attended on a basketball scholarship. He
also had been one of coach Pete Johnson's football stars.
He cut his teeth on basic reporting at the Sycamore Sun-Tribune
and True Republican a few years after I had parted company with
He said he got his first taste of column-writing while
on the Sycamore papers and that was it; he was hooked.
He soon moved on to the Rockford Morning Star & Register
Republic for six years, from 1969 to 1975,
Sycamore natives Bob Hill, at right, and David Boies
met recently at a Kentucky Authors Forum. (Provided photo)Bob Hill shared this photo of him with a boxer named
Ali, taken some 20 years ago.
"They gave me a column and I got into my pickup truck
and drove in ever widening circles looking for stories,"
he said. "It was the perfect job. If I saw a guy plowing
with a mule, I'd stop and talk with him. I once met a couple
married 70 years and stayed for dinner at their home."
His personal column, penned three or four times a week,
became a popular feature for the paper and even won him the prestigious
Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society
of Newspaper Columnists.
While with the paper, he came across many topics that would
make a good book-length story and jumped onto a few. Probably
his best known title is "Double Jeopardy," about
a man who was acquitted of murdering his wife in Louisville,
then evidence later surfaced that proved he had killed her.
That one sold 80,000 copies in hardback and paper editions,
plus generated widespread coverage on MSNBC and a two-part series
on NPR that was broadcast nationwide. Hill added that prosecutors
were able to convict him for other crimes and he did finally
go to jail.
The mention of lawyers brought something to mind that Hill
had experienced recently. He attended a Kentucky Authors Forum
and met David Boies, who was a featured speaker. It turns out
Boies also is a Sycamore product. They talked about their early
days of small town life.
For those not acquainted with Boies, he is one of the nation's
preeminent attorneys, being named one of the 100 most influential
people in the world by Time magazine in 2010. He is definitely
on my list of people to interview someday, maybe if he returns
to Sycamore in 2016 when he told Hill they are holding a reunion
to celebrate 100 years of the family's history.
Getting back to Hills achievements, he also has written
"The Louisville Slugger Story," as well
as books containing collections of his favorite columns, "Old
Friends" and "Stone Walls and River Music."
His interest in gardening resulted in two more books on that
He was surprised to receive a letter last month from Sycamore
High School notifying him he has been chosen to receive one of
the 2015 SHS Distinguished Alumni awards. The induction ceremony
coincides with his 55th class reunion back here, so he plans
to attend both events.
I look forward to buying him a drink so he might be persuaded
to share more of his secrets on successful column writing.