I was saddened to read of the passing of former AJC Editor Jim Wooten on Oct. 29 at the age of 78. Jim was the voice of conservatives at the Atlanta Journal and then the Journal-Constitution when the papers officially merged. I was honored to get to know him during his time as editor, but never more honored than when I opened up the AJC one morning after we had traded emails about the passing of Ronald Reagan to find my story and recollections of Ronald Reagan in his column published on June 13, 2004 (re-published at the end of this post).
If I needed a speaker for a Republican meeting, Jim was always there. If I just needed advice on nearly anything, Jim was always there. A true friend and mentor who never shied away from giving his time to invest in the GOP’s next generation of leaders.
A few years later, in 2010, I ran for a seat in the Georgia General Assembly against an incumbent Democrat in a swing district. When the deluge of false and negative attacks started to hammer me, Jim, once again stood by me, writing in the his weekly column published on October 1, 2010, “For goodness sake, trashing a 34-year-old in a race far removed from Congress and national politics. It’s why good people avoid public service.”
Wooten, a UGA grad and Vietnam War veteran was always the Southern gentleman. When his liberal counterpart, AJC Editor Cynthia Tucker, left Atlanta for Washington, D.C. in 2009, Wooten penned a column about the woman he didn’t agree with politically, but had no disagreement with as a person. Wooten wrote of Tucker, “For probably more than 20 years, we’ve disagreed. It’s not an act. It’s not contrived. It’s not a put-up to sell newspapers. She has one view of how to build a better America. I have another. Yet the disagreements were very Southern. Always civil, always polite. Never personal.”
Wooten helped teach me that it’s okay to disagree politically, but never let a political disagreement come between a good friendship.
One former Republican State Representative messaged me this morning describing Jim Wooten as a “giant” with whom he had spent many hours with. Georgia’s conservatives lost Jim as a voice for common sense conservative policy in the Atlanta media when he retired from the AJC in the summer of 2009. Then again when dementia took his brilliant mind before it took him.
This week, we finally lost him completely. I’ve missed his counsel. Now I will miss him. Until we see each other again, RIP Jim.
(Photo: Jim Wooten and Johnny Isakson with “some federal Cabinet member” at a Georgia Public Policy Foundation event courtesy of Benita Cotton-Orr).