The things that he saw

Journalism students often dream of getting that big assignment on their first job.

For long-time Westside resident John Kady that dream came true.

“My first assignment out of college was to cover John Kennedy on his campaign through West Virginia,” said Kady, who at the age of 75 is compiling his journalism experiences in the 1960s. “I found myself in a press car sitting between (famed political reporter and author) Bob Considine and ( television reporter/anchor) David Brinkley.”

Kady, who studied journalism at West Virginia University following his four years in the Air Force out of high school, followed the campaign through 1959 and 1960. When he wasn’t on the trail of politicians, he was covering the WVU football team.

Both of those assignments, in his early days as a reporter helped strengthen his career with the wire service that saw him working in Baltimore, Md., and Louisville, Ky., before settling in Columbus in 1967.

He was in Baltimore during the turbulent civil rights fights.

“The National Guard patrolled the streets,” he recalled.

By the time Alabama Governor George Wallace, seeking the presidential nomination, was shot in Baltimore, Kady had worked in Kentucky “where I spent two years covering Cassius Clay, better known as Muhammad Ali,” and was then in Ohio.

Arriving in Columbus, he moved from the reporting side to working the main news desk and later being bureau manager and closing out his career in sales.

He remembered a couple of airplane crashes in Ohio in 1967, and at year’s end, the collapse of the Silver Bridge into the Ohio River.

Then came the summer of 1968. Ohio was aboil with street riots in Cleveland and Columbus, and rioting inmates at the Ohio Penitentiary where law enforcement brought a halt to the uproar when they blew a hole in the side of the prison.

These big stories went along with the usual ones in Ohio – spring rains that flooded rivers, high temperatures and a lack of rain that caused farmers to worry about their crops, and another presidential campaign.

Things seemed to quiet a little after Richard Nixon was elected president, but heated up again in early 1970 with the invasion of Cambodia and the fighting in Vietnam that drew protests at home.

“The National Guard was called out eight times that spring,” Kady recalled. “The last time the Guard was summoned was for Kent State.”

The shooting deaths of four students at Kent State has often been described as an end to the turbulent 1960s, and also saw him begin to move up the career ladder.

“Let the younger, more energetic folks in there,” he said.

After his retirement from in the mid 1990s when the wire service experienced severe financial problems and several changes in ownership, he kept busy. He worked for a while in telemarketing and kept writing by doing stories for monthly publications.

And he tried his hand at different types of writing. Experiences in the air police during his military career, where he spent two years on Okinawa, were turned into a work of fiction in a book “A Sentry’s Saga on Okinawa,” through Publish America (Publish America, $14.95).

In recent months he has been chronicling his experiences as a reporter in the 1960s in a book he calls “A Reporter’s Notebook: From Kennedy to Kent State.”

His manuscript is in the final editing stages before he sends it to the publisher.

This summer he started attending the weekly gathering of Ohio Writers Guild that meets at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center in the downtown area.

One thing he say he learned was “You don’t let anyone read your first draft.”

And when he thought he had a final draft, he sent that to two relatives with writing backgrounds – his brother, a senior advertising executive for the Washington Post, and his nephew, a long-time journalist who now is blogging – to polish before he sends it to the publisher.

In addition to his writing, he goes to the nearest pool, at the YMCA in Urbancrest, to swim, an exercise that helps in his recovery from the heart attack and stroke he suffered on the same day a couple of years ago.

His wife, Pat, a nurse, has been working with him steadily on his rehabilitative process.

“Some day I hope to put this walker aside and walk on my own,” he said of his current goal.

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