John Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 24, 2007

Photo of coach and judge not found on these pages

The photo you might have seen on the pages of this newspaper today — had the subjects cooperated — would have been South Panola head coach Lance Pogue posed with his hands in a wringing position on the neck of Chancery Judge Mitch Lundy.

Judge Lundy was speaker at the Wednesday morning Exchange Club meeting. Coach Pogue was among guests.

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Judge Lundy was the chancery judge who recently issued the restraining order to schools in his district prohibiting outdoor activities during the extreme heat warning. Coach Pogue was among the many school athletic officials who questioned whether the judge or they knew best how to take care of the youngsters in their charge.

The judge explained to the Exchangites and their guests — if you have to stop and ask yourself what manner of Ite that is, then watch out. They are trying to make more Ites in a competitive membership drive involving two teams. “You pick any ones that you want and I’ll take the rest and beat you,” Ite blue team leader Bobby Baker challenged Ite red team leader John Thomas — the judge explained to Ites and all about the reasoning behind his decision.

Lundy recalled the news about a Mt. Olive football player dying from the heat during practice and the extended heat warning issued by the National Weather Service.

“I thought I had an obligation to the minors in my district if a heat warning was issued;  …I could not live with myself if I thought somebody died because I did not do my job,” the judge said.

So the judge issued his now-famous restraining order, which was soon broadcast in the regional and national media and which was perhaps the first of its kind. The State Supreme Court rendered the matter moot within a few days, overturning Judge Lundy’s order.

In hindsight, “I should not have acted on my own behalf without a petition of action,” Judge Lundy said, citing the Supreme Court’s reasoning for overturning his action.

In his opening, Judge Lundy said that he would answer no questions following his remarks “out of my tremendous respect” for the work of the Supreme Court Justices, naming them, including Justice George C. Carlson of Batesville.

Nevertheless, he offered answers to questions that had been repeatedly posed to him earlier. Yes, his own three children are involved in high school athletics, including an 11th grade defensive end; and no, there was not a “power struggle” — just a reaction to the death at Mt. Olive and the fear of more.

“When I err, it’s going to be for the right reason,” the judge said.

And I could not help but think that the judge is the quiet, still voice of reason among us. And I also could not help but think that the quiet, still voice of reason will be shouted down by our mass insanity. After all, it’s football. Normal measures of reason need not apply.

So I thought my idea of a posed photo with Pogue and Lundy was perfectly appropriate. Apparently they did not. As I was trying to maneuver the two into position, the coach bolted out the door like a scalded cat. Lundy politely but determinedly ignored me.

My brother told me today that what everyone needs is:

1. A rain to break the drought.

2. A cool spell to break the heat.

3. Friday night football to take our minds off all the other insanities.

Preferably in that order.