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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Bill Maxwell retires from the St. Pete Times

Maxwell_Bill_wp_10105f One of the St. Petersburg Times' sharpest minds and most fearless columnists is heading for a new challenge: Bill Maxwell is retiring.

Like many regular readers, I don't always agree with Bill's words, but I have always respected his conviction and admired his talent. I supported Barack Obama's candidacy, while Bill remained skeptical; Bill stresses personal responsibility in addressing the problems facing poor black folks, while I advocate a more wide-ranging approach.

But, unlike today's parade of TV-fed talking heads, you never get the sense Bill's positions are fueled by anything other than his own values. No positioning for popularity points or jockeying to fill a TV segment; whether he is outraging some readers by speaking out on the plight of the Palestinians or irking others by revealing the shortcomings in historically black colleges, his work pulses with his own passions and gains scope through the lens of a life well-lived. (Here's a blog post from me summing up my compliments and concerns about his stories on the black college where he taught.)

Maxwell-maximum_insight Bill will continue to write his Sunday column for the newspaper's op-ed page as a correspondent. But he'll be leaving the editorial board -- another experienced employee choosing the early retirement benefits offered by the newspaper to help shave its staffing costs.

Here's the Times memo announcing his departure.    

"Bill Maxwell, who has enlivened our editorial board meetings and enriched our pages with his curiosity and strong opinions, is retiring. That does not seem to be the right word, because Bill will not be sitting still. He has a number of projects in mind, and he will continue to write his Sunday column for us as a correspondent. That is great for him, because he will be able to roam around the city and the state even more than he does now. And while we will miss his insights and his humor in our meetings, we will be lucky to continue to have his powerful voice on the op-ed page.

Bill came to the Times in 1994, leaving his teaching position at Sante Fe Community College near Gainesville. Phil Gailey had been reading Bill’s column in the Gainesville Sun and convinced him to join us. For a decade, he wrote fearlessly about issues ranging from race to education to migrant workers to his own experiences growing up in rural North Florida.

He left us once, but the cause was noble. Bill resigned in 2004 to teach at Stillman College, a small historically black school in Alabama. It was a bumpy two years, but Bill touched the lives of many students there before we persuaded him to return to the Times in 2006. His heartfelt series on his experiences at Stillman received national attention and triggered many thoughtful discussions about the future of historically black colleges and the challenges of inspiring students to reach their potential.

Now Bill is leaving again, sort of. His last day is Friday, but I hope he remains on our pages for some time to come. Bill’s columns offer an unvarnished truth about subjects that need to be discussed – and few have the talent or the courage to tackle them as he does."     

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[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:58pm]

    

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