A Leader of This World

by Thomas B. Whitbread

Originally published by Leslie W. Boyer in The Echo Number 71 for May 1965.

There is an epithet, "The perfect gentleman," which aptly describes very few people in this or any other time and place. It amply befits Lee Hawes, Jr., of Tampa, Florida. Generous host, appreciative (and appreciated) guest, avuncular guiding spirit and cardiovascular core of the American Amateur Press Association, an associate editor of The Tampa Tribune, young President of The Fossils, Inc., son of a citrus grower who loves Robert E. Lee, explorer by Greyhound of the Far West: Lee Hawes is a man whose nearly never failing courtesy, aided by taste and drive, have made him one of the foremost amateur journalists of our time. The only things that can make his courtesy fail -- and then only when tact comes to seem too much hypocrisy -- are instances, citric or other, of malice, evil, deliberate intent to hurt, directed at other human beings or at an association of amateur journalists, particularly the American.

His favorite contemporary American painter is Andrew Wyeth. Strong realism, sympathy with individuals, and a dash of bitters in Wyeth's work show two directions in which Hawes goes plus one in which he has at times let himself go. Hawes' bitters seldom vie with Angostura on the Black Angus steaked tables at which he loves to be the genial host. But when two or three are gathered together in God's sight, when the Epicurean is not quite ready to yield to the Stoic, the Cynic in Lee's nature can cut another's passion into its essential pattern as well as anyone. As well as Burton Crane, a detector of clay feet, whose reportorial style Lee idolized, and whose witticisms and insights, after a memorable convergence of the twain, young Floridian newspaperman and successful jack-of-all-writings-trying-Shubert-Alley, Lee reported, never letting Crane's own flesh and blood seem either guilt or dust. As well as L. V. Heljeson, a pungent phraseologist, whose gifts for pinning a fly or a turnip seed in amber, whether as rambling conversationalist in private or sixth-drafting critic in the AAJ, Lee equally values.

But Lee seldom lets himself go. More often than not, the harmony of his group -- the attendants at a convention, the membership at large -- so overrides all other concerns as to render another's large grievances his petty annoyances. What would make another wish dueling legal, he chalks up to Learning Human Natures. What would make a soft ego melodramatically threaten to deprive amateur journalism of his (or her) presence, he lets slide. Not that he doesn't register, deep within, antipathies. But he likes people too much, is too much of a professional newspaperman and amateur observer, is too positively involved in the world in which he lives, to be much bothered by snakes and gnats.

The world in which Lee lives is now physically based at 5009 Dickens Avenue, Tampa. It is metaphysically based at some locus perhaps equidistant between The Tampa Tribune and the AAPA, a little farther from Gainesville, Florida and the Fossils, and farther still from the NAPA and Wyoming. After many years of living at his parent's home, 822 South Orleans, with 1959-60-61 commutational summerings at Indian Rocks, in a deserted mansion on the Gulf, with nine or ten housemates (one of whom, one fine day, set the tone by floating three miles out to sea on an inflated inner tube, martini in hand), Lee found and now occupies a fine home of his own, Spanish stucco outside, 1-1/2 floors inside, including a 20-ft.-ceilinged living room complete with Juliet-furnished balcony. (Furnishings invisible except at parties.) Many of the files of papers and letters that once bestrewed the floor of his room at 822 South Orleans now bestrew the floor of his study at 5009 Dickens. Lee's (like my) mother will probably not understand that what appears to them as a mess is an order: we can find what we want to show our friends, through search, if not memory.

Metaphysically, Lee comes closer than most people I know to jibing with Frost's
    My object in living is to unite
    My avocation and my vocation
    As my two eyes make one in sight.
His newspaper work pleases him considerably more than not. Without qualification, he loves his work for the AAPA. Lee Hawes' career as an official has rightly been celebrated: in this informal essay, I shall not recount it again. I shall, though, assert that no other member of the American has done so much in so many ways, giving of time, money, and essential undying interest, to insure the continuance and to work toward the flourishing of the fellowship which has given him many friends, and to which he has given himself, as has Lee Hawes. Letters urging dropouts to return. Classified ads in national magazines. The Silver Spur campaign. The past two years as Official Editor. And, capstone of a diversely variegated devotion to the association of fellow journalists and publishers he joined as a young adolescent (or old child), 75 issues, many multi-paged (including a 48-pager celebrating Vondy while she was alive), of The Gator Growl.

Now Fossil President, the University of Florida graduate who felt snow fall in August while gambolling with assorted others (mostly old young women and their mothers) in an attempt to see more of his country, Lee Hawes is at a turning point in his career. Will he, like Helm Spink, maintain a never-failing intellectual and felt concern for the well-being of his chosen and choosing hobby, yet write and publish fitfully? Will he, like Edward H. Cole, enter a total silence of matrimony, child-raising, and professional duty, then burst forth phoenix-like into blaze and again reblaze? I think neither. I think Lee Hawes, whose performance has already put all the founders of the American to a shame Lee would not admit, will never, whatever else happens to or for him, cease his myriad performing service of love.

I visited Lee in Tampa in December '59 and '63. He dipped his feet and shins into the unGulflike waters of Cape Cod, and endeared himself to my parents, in August '60. I have seen him at various conventions and convenings in recent years. But, though we joined our respective basic groups in the early '40s. and knew each other by name, deed, and a slight correspondence circa 1949-50, it was not till the April '58 Fossilmeet that we officially met. If ever an ecumenical movement will surge (Raymond Loewy ANAPA seal or no) through organized amateur journalism, Lee will have to be its Christ ere I will be its disciple.

But I think such movement unlikely. L. V. Heljeson to the contrary notwithstanding, Lee Hawes believes, and I agree, that multiplicity of groups is the healthiest state of the hobby. Small matter that 75 to 100 of AAPA members are NAPA members: perhaps a slight portent. But the surface appearance, not the cor cordium, of each major association differs. The residents in the heart of both AAPA and NAPA have these tenets in common: They value quality, though they don't mind quantity. They value honesty, though they don't mind tact. They value irony, humor, wit, though they don't mind seriousness. They value individuality, even idiosyncrasy, though they don't mind a membership. What they most mind is total dumbness, sheer negativity. They are, rightly, leaders of this world. Among them, high among them, stands Lee Hawes.


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