By Mardy Hanlon-Stolte
Local author Bob Whitman opened the 2012 Author Series last evening at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. He enlightened as well as entertained over 60 audience members about his passion for researching and writing about Jim Thorpe, the legendary athlete.
Whitman’s book, “Jim Thorpe and the Oorang Indians: the NFL’s Most Colorful Franchise’” is a biography of Thorpe. His second book about the renowned sports figure is “Jim Thorpe, Athlete of the Century: A Pictorial Biography.” Thorpe (1887-1953) was named a college All-American, honored as1912 Olympic decathlon and pentathlon gold medalist, and is enshrined in the Professional Football Hall of Fame – just a few of his many outstanding athletic accomplishments.
A retired educator and native of LaRue in Marion County, Whitman directed his opening remarks of the evening to local high school students in the audience. Referring to them as “a scholarly looking group,” he emphasized the significance of researching and writing.
Early in his writing career, Whitman gained exposure by writing magazine articles. “There is really something to seeing your name in print,” he said.
Whitman shared his interest and enjoyment in research. He emphasized the need for accuracy in fact gathering. “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet,” he said. “When you write, make sure you check your facts.”
Explaining his perspective of the writing process, Whitman said, “Chapters are organized like individual stories with a beginning, middle and end.”
Mastering mechanics, paragraph structure and sentence structure is essential for strong writing, according to Whitman.
He also stressed the importance of editing and proofreading in the writing process. “Always have someone read your work,” he said.
Whitman’s interest in Thorpe began as a child when he would visit the Oorang Airedale Dog Kennels, a local business in LaRue owned by Walter Lingo. Whitman was fascinated with the multitude of albums of news clippings and sports memorabilia stored at the kennels. Here he was introduced to Thorpe and the Oorang Indian football team that Lingo owned and for whom Thorpe played and coached. The team, comprised of Native American Indians, played in the National Football League in 1922-23.
Decades later, Whitman pursued his childhood interest in Thorpe and nurtured a friendship with family members and earned their confidence. He was honored as the official biographer by the Jim Thorpe Association.
Whitman’s “love to research” provided opportunities to become immersed in telling the life story of Thorpe. He spent hours conducting interviews and looking at photos that became the foundation of his pictorial biography about Thorpe.
Whitman appreciates the opportunities he has enjoyed because of his writing interests. “You get invitations to events like ‘John Madden’s Football Team of the Century,’” he said.
Being a participant in a televised program was a highlight in Whitman’s writing career although he humorously remarked that he appeared on the screen “just long enough to see my name.” He also was a contributor to ESPN’s SportsCentury Top North American Athletes of the 20th Century of which Thorpe was ranked 7th out of 100 athletes.
At evening’s end, Whitman reminded those in attendance that writing can create a legacy for an individual. “We all have a story in us,” he said.
The 7th annual Author Series, sponsored by the Friends of the Marysville Public Library, continues with Ohio writer Carla Buckley on Tuesday, March 27 at 7 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Interested individuals should call (937) 644-8686 for ticket information.