If newspapers do go under one day, the thing I’ll miss most is working on a team. Of course you can do good stories alone, as a freelancer. But a newsroom means teamwork, and it means that electric crackle when everybody’s working on the big story, and most of all it means working with unforgettable characters. There could be lots of great characters at accounting firms, I don’t know, but I doubt most places have as many as newspapers. One of the greatest in the Charlotte Observer’s history died this morning. David Poole was 50.

Here is an incomplete list of the things Poole loved: UNC basketball, the Atlanta Braves, creative cursing, R.O.’s Barbecue in Gastonia, politics, old race-car drivers, the newspaper business, his grandbaby Eli, two cars side-by-side in the last turn at Daytona, and most of all, talking.

Here is a list of things Poole was not so fond of: the NBA, dumb NASCAR rules, stupid people in general, the occasional editor, being on the road six days a week, re-engineering and re-designing and all the things we tried to make the newspaper better instead of just doing better stories.

Poole loved to argue. LOVED it. All you had to do was throw out a word — “Earnhardt.” “Bush.” “Dean.” — and he’d be off. Lord help you if you ended up on the other side. He was smart and quick and forceful and pretty soon you’d end up in a tidy little pile of rhetorical dust. He would cut you a look that said, surely you didn’t think you would win an argument with ME. And then he would get tickled about the whole thing and you’d be friends again, not that you ever weren’t.

Sometimes he would get legitimately furious, and at those times it was best to give him about 10 feet of space in every direction. But from my experience it was mostly bluster and show, wrapped around a good heart.

I follow NASCAR, not enough to call myself a fan but enough to know what’s going on, and there’s no question that he was the best NASCAR reporter on the scene — he learned from the great Tom Higgins, the best there ever was. The thing about Poole is, if we had asked him to cover city hall or real estate or theater, he would’ve been the best at those, too. He was a good guy, a devoted family man, but most of all to me he was a great teammate. There’s no way to replace him.


11 thoughts on “DP, RIP

  1. Tommy, as always, you collapse into a few wonderful paragraphs the sprawling emotional reactions the rest of us are having. I know we need you here now, but YOU need to stay in Cambridge and relish your time there. But you know that …

  2. Very nice Tommy. The place you’ll come back to will be a little different from the one you left.

  3. What Kathleen said rings true. Thanks for the tribute to DP, TT.

  4. I might feel a little better if you were back here, TT. It’s just truly lousy right now.

  5. Very nice Tommy. And all so true. He could be the angriest man I’ve ever met but could be turned to puddy by a picture of his 2 year old grandson.

  6. Thanks, Tommy, for this about David. He could pitch a colorfully worded fit, and he never suffered fools gladly. We’ve lost one of our great characters.

  7. I really was shocked to hear about David this afternoon but if anyone with ties to the Observer could put this in proper perspective, Tommy I knew I could count on you.
    After all the years of reading David’s NASCAR coverage and listening to him on Pack’s show, I had not had a chance to meet him until a few weeks ago after the incredible Cherryholmes concert at Spirit Square. We spoke briefly after the show but it was raining and not great weather to chat.
    With Tom Sorensen out for cancer treatments and now the loss of David, the Sports pages might be Sports page for a while. He will certainly be missed.

  8. Brilliantly written.

    I am not a guy in journalism, but I read the Observer cover to cover every day just because I can not.

    Can’t imagine replacing Poole, even though my attachment to NASCAR is roughly Tommy’s. It was the same when Higgins had the beat.

    Funny, lyric, passionate writer.

    And I love, love the increasingly slim thing that presents itself at my doorstep each morning.

  9. Beautiful tribute. I am not a big NASCAR fan, but I was a fan of David’s column. Please hurry back to the Observer while there is still a paper to write for!

  10. Great tribute to a great man!

  11. Beautifully done, Tommy. So true and such a perfect tribute to that cantakerous marshmallow.

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