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Two journalists of note began their careers in Gainesville
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You never know where a bicycle ride will take you.

For Rhett Turnipseed III, it took him all over the world and among world leaders and leading journalists of the day.

Rhett didn’t ride his bicycle all over the world. All it took was a 2-mile ride from his native New Holland to WGGA’s brand new radio station on then-Athens Highway just outside Gainesville in 1941.

WGGA was holding its grand opening ceremonies, and as a curious young boy he wanted to be a witness to it.

His hanging out at the radio station at age 13 soon earned him a job there earning 50 cents for placing a remote amplifier and microphone in churches for Sunday morning broadcasts. He was hooked, and an illustrious career had begun.

While at Gainesville High School, his off time was spent behind the mics at WGGA.

That propelled him into the University of Georgia’s broadcast journalism studies and a member of the original staff of the Athens station, WRFC. His popular afternoon music program for a collegiate audience helped make the station No. 1 in its market.

Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951, Rhett was a combat correspondent in the Korean War filing stories from the front to American radio stations.

After the war, he worked at several radio stations and completed his master’s degree at the University of Georgia.

Then it was 13 years with the Voice of America, covering such stories as the Chinese invasion of Indian Kashmir territories, manned space flights and President John F. Kennedy’s funeral before an audience of 500 million. He was the principal correspondent for Apollo 11 space flight coverage, which earned the prestigious Peabody Award.

Rhett worked with such broadcast greats as John Chancellor, who tried to lure him to NBC, and Edward R. Murrow. He also toured the world with Apollo 12 astronauts and had private audiences with such world leaders as Chiang Kai-shek and the king of Morocco.

Back home in retirement, he taught at Brenau University and the University of West Georgia, in addition to doing some radio and working with the Georgia Association of Broadcasters, which named him to its Hall of Fame.

All this time, Rhett had learned to fly at age 15 and became an avid lifelong aviator.

Rhett died Jan. 18 in Fayetteville. He had come a long way from a young lad riding his bicycle in his native New Holland. His father was a popular executive at the New Holland mill, also serving as a coach for its sports teams and principal of the community school.

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A service will be held this spring at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C., for yet another journalist who cut his newspaper teeth on The Times.

Laird Anderson, 78, covered education for The Times in the 1950s. It was his first job in journalism. He then worked for 9th District Rep. Phil Landrum in Washington before moving into public affairs with the Investment Bankers Association of America.

He had stints as a staff writer for such prestigious newspapers as the Wall Street Journal, was a contributor to the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun, and was Tallahassee bureau chief for the Miami News and Palm Beach Times. Later, he became a professor of journalism at American University in Washington, retiring in 1996 after 23 years.

His twin careers as a journalist and officer in the U.S. Army Reserve intertwined and carried him to far corners of the world. Laird conducted workshops for international journalists as a faculty member of the International Center for Journalism.

He traveled under the auspices of the U.S, Information Agency, the State Department and private foundations to work with journalists, students, academics and government officials in Albania, Romania, Guatemala, Greece, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Ethiopia and Nepal.

Laird also was an author of many journal and newspaper articles on media issues, military affairs and the economics of the press.

He retired in 1989 as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. An infantry and Special Forces officer, he spent 31 years on active and reserve service in various command and staff positions and received numerous awards.

Laird grew up in the Druid Hills area of Atlanta.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

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