Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

February 18, 2012

Dick Yarbrough, syndicated columnist, addresses Kiwanians

AMERICUS — Syndicated columnist Dick Yarbrough was guest speaker at Friday’s meeting of the Americus Kiwanis Club. He came as special guest of the Americus Times-Recorder’s executive editor Beth Alston, a member of the club, and publisher Dan Sutton.

Yarbrough’s column publishes in over 30 newspapers in Georgia, and appears on Tuesday in the Times-Recorder.

Yarbrough spent 40 years in the corporate world, serving as vice president for BellSouth Corp. and later managing director/communications and government relations of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. He was named one of the 100 Most Influential Public Relations Practitioners for the 20th Century by PR Week, an industry publication.

During his career Yarbrough received many other honors as well:  Georgia Trend magazine twice identified him as one of the 100 Most Powerful and Influential People in the state. The Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America elected him to the Order of the Phoenix, their highest award, and to membership in their Hall of Fame. Yarbrough received the George Goodwin Award from the chapter for lifetime achievement. Inside PR, another industry publication, awarded him the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the profession, only the fourth person so honored.

Graduating in 1959, Yarbrough is still active at his alma mater, the University of Georgia (UGA). He is past president of the National Alumni Association and received its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award, in 1995. In 2003, he was named recipient of the Distinguished Service Award by the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communications at UGA. Given in recognition of long-time dedication and commitment to the college, Yarbrough is the second recipient of a Distinguished Service Award.

The UGA  chapter of Blue Key national honor society presented him with the Blue Key Award in 1996 for major contributions to the state. He is a member of the Gridiron Society, the Greek Horsemen and a recipient of the Sphinx, the university’s highest non-academic award. He is an emeritus trustee of the University of Georgia Foundation.

In 1997, Governor Zell Miller appointed Yarbrough to the State Ethics Commission, which oversees the disclosure of significant private interests of public officials in Georgia. He was the only non-attorney on the five-person Ethics board.

Yarbrough is a member of the Cherokee Town and Country Club and the Sea Island Club. He and his wife Jane, who accompanied him to Americus on Friday, have two children, four grandsons and one great-grandson.

He began writing columns 15 years ago, and is the recipient of the Georgia Press Association’s 2011 winner of the “Best Humor Column” award. He has authored two books: "Squirrels at the Birdfeeder: Taking Aim at Politicians, CEOs, and Other Pests" a [Squirrels At The Birdfeeder] humorous collection of his most popular columns, and "And They Call Them Games" about the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Yarbrough’s self-effacing style is genuine and engaging. He kept the Kiwanians and guests totally entertained with humorous stories, until he turned to a serious subject, one near and dear to his heart: public education. He shared a touching story of a young girl who was identified as a poor student, seeming not to “get it.” Upon investigation, it was found that she had very poor eyesight. She was taken to an optometrist, fitted with glasses, and her world changed completely.

The Yarbroughs have a son, daughter, son-in-law and grandson who are all teachers in the public schools of Georgia. He is a strong defender of teachers and is of the belief that if local, state and federal bureaucrats would only stop micro-managing, that classroom teachers would be much more successful in reaching and teaching their students.

Modest to a fault, Yarbrough did not mention a few interesting facts about himself at the Kiwanis meeting.

• He was embedded with the 48th Brigade in Iraq, and given full access by Brigadier Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver. He said on his next to last day in Iraq, he was in a humvee with three soldiers and an IED was detonated near the two-vehicle motorcade. While he was uninjured, he said it was about two weeks later that it really “sunk in” what had happened, or almost happened. He said 5 seconds either way would have meant grave consequences for him and the troops he was with.

• He established the C. Richard Yarbrough Student Support in the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communications at UGA. Every cent he receives from the publication of his columns goes to this self-less cause.

• As well as writing books and columns and speaking all over the Southeast, Yarbrough also started painting in the last 15 years and enjoys rendering oil paintings of his family and landscapes, seascapes, still life, none of which are for sale.

You can read more about Yarbrough and view his works of art and read his columns on his website www.dick.yarbrough.com

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