Column: Scott Hunter a quiet force in Aiken
In 1969 the only Scott Hunter I knew of was the quarterback for Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide.
When Bill Conley, my next-door neighbor in a University of South Carolina dorm, told me he knew Scott Hunter, I scoffed. Even when the Frederick, Maryland, native picked up the phone and called his “Scott Hunter” I felt he was trying to pull a prank.
Then Bill pulled out the USC phone directory and showed me that Scott Hunter from Rockville, Maryland, was indeed a student at the university and was, like my neighbor, a history major and a Marylander. I finally met this Scott Hunter four years later.
Moving forward from graduation to Navy active duty to marriage to an Aiken return, I was working for the Augusta Chronicle’s Aiken Bureau in the summer of 1973. That year Aiken had a state championship American Legion baseball team which I covered regularly.
It was while working on one of those games that I finally met the other Scott Hunter – the history major and friend of Bill Conley who had gone to graduate school in North Carolina and was beginning his newspaper career with the Aiken Standard.
We became friends that summer while working for competing newspapers, and it was the start of a friendship that lasted 45 years. I got to see the drive and the energy on the sports pages of the Aiken Standard while he was first a writer then sports editor.
Wanting to ensure fair and complete coverage, Scott contacted all the local high school football coaches before Friday night games to make certain he could reach them afterward for comments about the game. A small staff did not permit in-person coverage of all the games.
With the Standard being a five-day-a-week publication at the time, Scott spent much of the weekend tracking down coaches for comments and working ahead on his Monday pages.
One day a few years later, Scott’s car appeared in our driveway. He had recently been promoted to managing editor of the paper and was there not just to visit, but to offer me a job as news editor. A couple of weeks later, I walked into the newsroom and began a working relationship with him.
In those days, using a color picture in the newspaper was a rarity reserved for special occasions and requiring lots of planning. The photo had to be taken well ahead of time because processing the film took place off premises.
With no color separation equipment in the Aiken office, the color slide had to be taken to Charleston where our parent newspaper could perform the time-consuming task. On those occasions where color was used, Scott usually spent his Sunday driving the slide to the Charleston office, waiting the couple of hours while the separation was completed and driving back to Aiken. He did what it took to improve the newspaper for those who were most important in his mind – the readers.
After a few years in the Standard newsroom, I pursued a dream to teach with Scott’s blessing. He allowed me to continue working on weekends and during the summer. I’m not sure if it was part of a grander plan on his part, but eight years later he came calling again.
He was the just-promoted publisher of the paper, and I was a sixth-grade teacher nearing the end of the school year. He wanted to know if I would have interest in being the editorial page editor for the Aiken Standard. I agreed and once again worked with him on a full-time basis for another 19 years.
With my office next to his, I got to see daily a man who knew his trade, a man who had a vision for the newspaper, a man who loved his family, a man who did everything he could to improve his community. He did it all with kindness, compassion, fairness, tolerance, integrity and honor.
While he did much for his employees, for the newspaper’s health and for the welfare of the community, Scott shunned the spotlight, preferring to point it toward others. Aiken will miss this strong, civic-minded person who made a difference in many ways.
I will miss a friend who has meant much to me and my family.
As I think of Scott’s life and the sadness of his passing, I am reminded of a verse in Matthew. “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Scott was faithful to his calling and was given charge over many things to the benefit of others.
Jeff Wallace is a retired editor of the Aiken Standard and friend of Scott Hunter’s for the past 45 years.