Special Woman, Boss, Left Legacy of Life Well Lived
It seems weird not getting to see Margaret when I go "home" to the West Memphis area.
For the nearly 15 years that I have been away, I never made a trip back that I didn’t go see her … more than once.
I can’t anymore. She died a few months back at age 85.
I was lucky, though, during the weeks prior to her death, I was in the area a lot and had the chance to spend time with her. Not too long at each visit … she tired easily … but I had lots of short visits.
One day she felt well enough to get in the wheel chair and be rolled out to her sun porch where several of us had gathered. Including the childhood friend who still called her by her nickname of those days … "Pig-eye."
I got her to tell the Kate Adams story.
It seems that when she was a little girl Margaret and her mother were aboard the steamboat for a trip from Arkansas City to Memphis.
Her most vivid memory of that trip is getting mad at her mother because she wouldn’t let Margaret sleep on the top bunk.
Margaret Woolfolk was my first real boss. She was a part-owner and was editor/publisher of the Evening Times in West Memphis.
She hired me over the phone to be society editor. Fortunately, she recognized after a few weeks she’d made a mistake and changed my job assignment. I was better suited for chasing wrecks and covering city and county government.
When I took the job, I knew I wasn’t the society editor type, but I wanted my foot in the door and a chance to prove myself.
Through the years I remained close to Margaret. She called me "kid."
She taught me a lot … practices and beliefs I use daily.
When Margaret and the other owners sold the newspaper, she agreed to stay on for a couple of years, then she retired.
Retirement and Margaret weren’t a match. Kind of like she said about her husband of very short duration … "It didn’t take."
Because she never had the chance to go to college, she enrolled at Arkansas State University and commuted from her home in Marion.
That completed … what next?
Law school sounded interesting. She’d always enjoyed covering court and proofreading legal briefs.
She got a standing ovation from her law school class at Memphis State when she walked up to get her diploma. She was 69.
And, until about six months before her heart finally gave out, Margaret had a very active law practice and could often be found on the bench filling in for this and that judge.
If one had wanted to take out the legal and judicial professions in Eastern Arkansas, her funeral would have been the spot.
A lot of her clients never got a bill. And, many of those who did really didn’t know what a lawyer is "supposed" to cost because most often the bill didn’t reflect that.
But once she told me that being an attorney wasn’t as much "fun" as newspapering had been.
In between all her other doings, she took some time to write and publish the history of Crittenden County.
The new library in Marion is named for her. It was done so at the request of the man, Joe Jenkins, who funded the project.
Joe also gave Margaret’s eulogy. He said she’d told him to practice it several times because she didn’t want him messing it up.
Yes, ever in control, Margaret had planned her funeral while she was still able to telephone those she wanted to do specific things.
That was typical. She was pretty much in control.
One childhood friend quoted in a newspaper article after her death said Margaret was always organizing whatever they were up to back in their youth.
"She was boss of the world," he said.
… And I loved her.
(Kate Dickson can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)