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Gary Borders: Sam Malone 2.0 is unlike late San Augustine newspaperman

Gary Borders

My buddy Leon, a fellow refugee from the newspaper publisher business, sent me a news release the other day, announcing that Sam Malone is serving as master of ceremonies at a Houston charity event.

What got our attention is the Sam Malone that Leon and I knew well passed on 16 years ago. No, not the character that Ted Danson played on “Cheers.” The fellow we called the “real” Sam Malone was a cigar-smoking, whiskey drinking country newspaperman who founded The Rambler in San Augustine in 1967. Fifteen years later, I met Sam after taking over the paper he had recently sold. Sam still ran a print shop in half of the building, which he owned. He became my newspaper mentor and surrogate father. My two oldest daughters were 4 and 1 when we moved to San Augustine. They called him Grandpa Sam, which he loved.

Sam hosted a morning radio talk show for the Center station until not long before his death. He sat at his desk piled with newspapers, filled ashtrays, scraps of paper, a coffee cup filled with sludge-thick coffee, and a Solo cup holding a Bloody Mary, a microphone perched precariously on the pile. Sam let folks know who had died since the previous morning, when the school board was going to meet, and where the Wolves would be traveling on Friday night for football. Sam hosted his show six mornings a week even if he was out of town. He told me he once broadcast standing stark naked in a Houston hotel room, wearing only his cigar.

We remained friends long after I left San Augustine in 1987. He would send me “care packages,” as he put it, of newspaper clippings, historical references and out-of-print copies of obscure historical books he had reprinted on his old job press. Sam loved Texas history. I drove down from my various job outposts — Kilgore, Nacogdoches and Lufkin — to visit him and clink glasses a couple times a year, up until his death from cancer in January 2000.

I still miss him.

So who is this other Sam Malone, hosting a high-dollar charity event in Houston? According to his website, he has hosted a conservative talk show on radio for the past 25 years and now can be heard on 700 AM KSEV’s “The Voice of Texas.” He speaks often at Tea Party rallies and also works at a Houston television station.

The Houston Sam Malone recently interviewed then-presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, who complained about the media picking on him for saying the pyramids were actually grain elevators. He found a sympathetic ear in Malone.

I listened online to Houston’s Sam Malone. He is likely not related to Ramblin’ Sam, as we called my late friend. He certainly has a smooth voice and delivery. Ramblin’ Sam’s voice reflected a lifetime drinking cheap bourbon and smoking cheaper cigars. Gravelly does not even begin to describe Ramblin’ Sam’s voice.

Houston’s Sam Malone covered the Republican debate recently in H-Town, posted a photo of his press pass on his Facebook page, and boasts of combating the “corrupt media.” Ramblin’ Sam never touched a computer in his life and likely would have considered Facebook an abomination. He didn’t really trust politicians of either party. Sam once took after the entire San Augustine school board. Voters listened and booted out the incumbents. One of the losing incumbents, a woman with a large purse, walloped Sam upside the head with her purse. Sam, ever the newsman, shot a photo of the ousted board member while lying on the ground and put it on the following issue’s front page.

I wonder if Houston’s Sam Malone has ever been assaulted by an angry listener? Anything is possible.

Gary Borders has been an East Texas journalist and editor for more than 40 years. He works now as a freelance writer, editor and photographer. You can see his work at garyborders.com. He has written for World Wildlife magazine, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer and Airstream Life.
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