March 2001: Vol. 80, No. 2

Spreading her wings (and Sam's)

Pam Avery Yielding liked her children's theatrical character—Sam, the crow—so much, she thought he deserved to be in a book. She was right.

by Tracy Coley Curlee (ABJ '90)

Twenty pairs of eyes hang on each word as Pam Avery Yielding reads her new children's book to a class of young students at UGA's McPhaul Center. The pre-K and Head Start students particularly like it when she reads in the squawky voice of her book's star character, Sam, the crow:

When Yielding read Sam's Search at UGA's McPhaul Center, the young students loved her imitation of a squawky crow's voice.

Where I come from, I'm the best, they say,
At making folks smile when I strut my way.
So relax, sit back, and enjoy the show.
Introducing yours truly, Sam the Crow!

"The most incredible part of doing this," says Yielding (ABJ '72), who self-published Sam's Search and is promoting it all over the Southeast, "is seeing the faces on the kids . . . in their eyes and in their smiles."

Sam began as a theatrical script written by Yielding and performed by children at her Crossroads Studio in Pine Mountain, where she also runs a family antiques business. As she watched the young actors rehearse on stage one day, a thought occurred to her: If this is pretty on stage, why wouldn't it be pretty on page?

Yielding contacted two cousins—one an artist, the other a publisher—who were immediately sold on Yielding's idea to do a book about Sam.

Aware that the children's book business is ultra-competitive, they kept production costs low by donating their creative talents. Yielding's publishing company donated the printing, and the three partners initially paid for the paper and binding of the book, plus postage and promotional materials. Those costs have been absorbed by sales from the book. The first printing of 4,000 sold out and another 5,000 books have been ordered. And a sequel—Sam's Secret—is in the offing.

Yielding performs dramatic readings of Sam at pre-K and elementary schools, where the book may be purchased at a discount. Yielding donates $2 to the schools for each book sold.

Yielding attributes the book's success to the beautiful illustrations and to the story, wherein an outcast crow proves his mettle to his barnyard neighbors by saving a baby swan.

"It reflects my strong feelings of acceptance and friendship," she says, "about how necessary it is to be loved and accepted for who we are."

Sam has proved to be a very versatile crow—with a life beyond even what his creator envisioned. He's being used in a children's literature course at the University of Maryland, and a Maryland high school student will use him in a violence prevention course.

Tracy Coley Curlee (ABJ '90) is an editor in the UGA Publications office. To order copies of Sam's Search or schedule a dramatic reading by Yielding, call toll free 888-430-9274 or visit and follow the links to Visions Ink.

Master of the sports beat

How good is Miami Herald columnist Ed Pope? He got fan mail from Ernest Hemingway.

by Myles Ludwig

Beginning with his first efforts on an old Underwood typewriter in his father's Depression-era cotton warehouse in Athens, Ed Pope figures he has written enough words—more than 8 million at last count—to fill a stack of Bibles.

"And a lot of them very poorly chosen!" says the self-effacing Pope (ABJ '48), who has won every major sportswriting award in America, including the recent Bert McGrane award from the Football Writers Association of America.

Pope (shown here with boxer Joe Louis) is one of seven sports writers who has covered every Super Bowl—all XXXV of them.
The plaque is on display in Pope's Key Biscayne home, where he's still cranking out columns for the Miami Herald as he has for the past 45 years. Now 72, he sometimes writes at home in an upstairs loft equipped with an IBM laptop and an exercise machine that looks like a medieval torture device. His mementos include a framed copy of an old Kix cereal ad that featured him, and a framed University of Miami football jersey with his name and No. 1 inscribed on the back. He covers the Hurricanes and the Dolphins, and is one of seven sportswriters who holds the distinction of covering every Super Bowl—all XXXV of them.

Qualifications: "Just keep breathing," he says, "and keep your job."

Pope was the youngest sports editor in the nation at age 15 (which is why he made the Kix ad), and his resume goes on and on: youngest winner of the Red Smith Award, member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, winner of four National Headliners Club prizes as the nation's best columnist, three Eclipse Awards for his thoroughbred racing columns, one of Esquire's "10 Super Scribes—and a favorite read of Ernest Hemingway.

"He scratched out a couple of letters saying I was the best writer of sports in America," says Pope, who, knowing the value of an autograph, still didn't think to save Papa Hemingway's signature.

Pope became executive sports editor of the Atlanta Journal in 1954, and scored big with Football's Greatest Coaches after Ed Sullivan promoted the book on his TV show. Pope moved to Miami in 1956 with his wife Eileen. In 1967, he was named sports editor of the Herald. But Georgia, particularly Athens, is where his heart lies.

"It was a great place to grow up—just like paradise with fields and streams," he recalls. "It was a classless society. Everyone was hurtin'. For a dime, you could eat a chili dog and a p.c. (plain chocolate milk) at the Varsity across from the Arch."

Pope remembers getting up at 5 a.m., lighting the wood stove fire in the newspaper office, and typing with gloves on before going to school. "Between the YMCA and UGA," he says, "everything fit together."

Pope considers Bulldog star Charley Trippi the greatest football player who ever lived, but regrets leaving school before black athletes were allowed to compete.

"It's an American tragedy that it took so long to integrate," he says. "It really bothers me that they were denied the opportunity because of the color of their skin."

Pope spends most summers in Wyoming, reading and trekking the mountains. He runs and plays tennis—and has no immediate plans to retire.

"It's been a long journey." he says, "and I'm very lucky to still be able to work."

Myles Ludwig is a Florida-based freelancer.

Musical deal-maker

Peter Conlon has booked everyone from Sinatra to R.E.M.—and it all started at UGA when he brought Jethro Tull to campus for an IFC concert

by Charles McNair

Peter Conlon could have taken his Irish Catholic grandfather's advice. But he might never have grown up to be a successful and respected entertainment promoter. In fact, he might never have grown up at all.

Conlon (BBA '75) was a high-level aide to Jimmy Carter before founding Concert/Southern Promotions in 1981. He dreams of creating a new outdoor concert venue on Atlanta's north side.
"My grandfather was upset I wouldn't go to Ireland when I was 16 and join the IRA," says Conlon (BBA '75) from the artfully furnished den of his Atlanta home, which was designed by architect Neel Reid, who also designed UGA's Brooks Hall. Three acres of gardens blush beyond the window. This greenspace is where you'll find Conlon in his rare, private moments, down on his prayer bones in black dirt, Paganini swirling from hidden backyard speakers.

In 1981, Conlon and partner Alex Cooley created Concert/Southern Promotions. They have booked virtually every major act, often at local venues they helped create or preserve: the refurbished Roxy Theater, outdoor concerts at Chastain Park, and the Music Midtown festival. In the process, Conlon has doo-bee-doo-bee-dooed with Sinatra, swapped yarns with Clapton, and killed time with R.E.M. in an Irish castle as 100,000 fans howled across the moat.

Conlon also helped elect a U.S. president. But the first chapter of his career was written at UGA.

"I never went to the parties. I never went to the football games," he recalls. "Socially, I didn't fit in." But he did, paradoxically, serve as social chairman of Sigma Nu fraternity, where he amused himself by "getting lots of bands. It mollified me some."

Conlon eventually lent his skills to the Interfraternity Council and University Union, both of which booked performers. Conlon convinced IFC to take a chance on a group named Jethro Tull. The show earned IFC its first-ever profit. When Conlon worked the same magic with the Allman Brothers, then Leon Russell, he knew he'd found a calling. But before making it his life's career, he offered to set up concert fundraisers for Jimmy Carter. Instead, Hamilton Jordan drafted him for a staff job.

Conlon served two years as assistant treasurer of the Presidential Inaugural Committee and, in 1977, as executive assistant and White house liaison to the Small Business Administration. He organized conferences and even wrote legislation. At the age of 26, he became national fundraising director for Carter's re-election campaign, organizing benefit concerts.

Concert/Southern shows gross tens of millions of dollars annually, placing it in the top tier of entertainment promoters nationally. Late in 1997, SFX Entertainment, a New York-based promotions giant, paid a reported $17 million to buy Concert/Southern. Both partners remain with the firm, and their latest notion is to create an outdoor amphitheater north of Atlanta. Proposals to locate that venue in Alpharetta and in Forsyth County have been unsuccessful, but Conlon won't give up easily. A never-say-die attitude put those Picasso drawings on his wall and the Matisse over his fireplace.

"This will eventually happen," he says coolly of the outdoor amphitheater project. "It's something the city needs. Atlanta is a venue-poor city. I mean, we've got 4 million people here. Nothing comes easy. If I gave up on all the fights I've had in this industry, I'd be chasing ambulances right now with some crummy law firm. This amphitheater will happen."

Charles McNair is a senior counselor at Hayslett Sorrell LLC, a national public relations firm located in Atlanta.

Medical pioneer

An early practitioner of cardiothoracic surgery, Lois Taylor Ellison is now MCG's official historian

by Christine Hurley Deriso

When Lois Taylor Ellison was summoned to UGA president Harmon Caldwell's office in the fall of 1942, she pondered the possibilities: Did he want to commend her for her stellar academic performance? Her election as president of Mortar Board?

Ellison was one of three women in MCG's Class of '43. She contracted tuberculosis in medical school, but survived it, re-enrolled, and graduated in 1950.
But when she walked into Caldwell's office, Ellison could immediately tell that the president was not in a congratulatory mood. Nor was Dean William Tate, who was holding up a copy of The Statesman, a newspaper published by then-Gov. Eugene Talmadge. The headline read: "Editorial by White Girl as Published in University Paper—Amazed at Attitude of White Girl."

In an Oct. 2, 1942, column in The Red and Black, Ellison (BS '43) argued that blacks were due every opportunity available to whites. An outraged Talmadge responded in The Statesman: "When I see a picture of a white girl advocating racial equality, I don't know what we are coming to next." The governor wanted Ellison expelled from school. Caldwell and Tate assured her that they weren't about to do that. "They told me to consider myself reprimanded," Ellison recalls, "and to please not cause any more trouble for them."

Nearly 60 years later, Ellison laughs as she recounts the story in her lilting Southern accent. But it wasn't funny at the time. A native of Fort Valley, who moved to Athens at age 12, Ellison was accustomed to life unfolding according to her meticulous plan. It's how she won a state tennis championship as a teen, and how she became one of three women to be accepted into the freshman class of the Medical College of Georgia in 1943.

During medical school, Ellison married a surgical resident. Six weeks later, she contracted tuberculosis. She was hospitalized for 18 months, but she survived. "The doctors didn't want me to go back to medical school," she recalls. "But I'd come too far." She re-enrolled, and graduated in 1950.

Ellison completed a cardiopulmonary physiology fellowship, then joined the MCG faculty. She helped develop a cardiopulmonary lab, where MCG's first catheterizations and blood gasses were performed. Her husband performed—MCG's first open-heart procedures using bypass in 1956. Her career evolved into administration, where she served as provost and vice president.

Now retired, Ellison is MCG's historian-in-residence, which allows her to draw upon her skills as a physician, researcher, and writer to unearth and preserve MCG's history. The best way to prosper, in her estimation, is to learn from the victories—and mistakes—of those who came before. As she puts it:

"I've never been a fan of the status quo."

Christine Deriso (ABJ '83) is publications coordinator at the Medical College of Georgia. Her first children's book will be published by Illumination Arts.

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