Amy Jo Long was born December 31, 1920 : 100 years ago, today.
An only child, she grew up in Decatur, Texas spoiled by her parents, especially her father, whom she loved more than anything. Even more than her pet goat.
She grew up playing piano in an organized manner, and always expected to be a professional concert pianist, until a type of arthritis in her teens made her quite aware that career was not possible.
She went to summer school during her teen years, not because she needed remedial learning. Rather, her mother felt she “would get into too much trouble if left to her own devices.” So she finished high school younger than her peers, and indeed, university, too.
She graduated from Texas Wesleyan College (now University) young, with a degree in Journalism. In fact, Amy Jo was SO young, and “a girl,” that no newspaper would hire her. So...she got a job at Sears Roebuck & Company, in the catalog department. She was always somewhat disgusted by this, and it affected her greatly, forming her views on equal rights for women.
She wasn’t hired by a newspaper at graduation, but did write: she became a “stringer” in Fort Worth for national media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine. Eventually, after proving herself, she was picked up full time by the Fort Worth Press newspaper.
Her first job - as was most reporters jobs, she told me - was obituary writer. Each day, twice a day, she phoned the morgue “What do you got for me?!” and then would phone the house of the deceased and try to get the story about the person from the recently deceased’s family. Her editor would say “Amy Jo, everyone has a story. Your job is to get it.”
Shortly after her arrival at The Fort Worth Press, World War II broke out - and all the male reporters left. AMY became the senior reporter! She told me she attended Rotary & Lion’s Club luncheons. “I thought women weren’t allowed in those organizations until the 70’s?” I said. “I wasn’t a woman: I was a reporter! They wanted to be recognized in the press when possible!”
Amy Jo loved her time as Senior Reporter at The Press. Then: the war ended. The men came back, and - you guessed it - they wanted AJL back as an obituary writer. AJL felt that was the perfect time to leave; she went to University of Texas and got her Masters Degree in Journalism.
She went back to Texas Wesleyan and became Public Relations Director and a journalism teacher. She was appalled in later years to discover journalism schools stopped teaching the “who what when where and how” method of discovery!
Eventually Amy Jo went back to University of Texas, to the News and Information Service. She used to talk about waiting outside the room while the Board of Regents met; when they emerged she would find out “what was decided and what she wasn’t allowed to make public about what was decided!” She always laughed when she said that!
At UT she was 2nd in command when Charles Whitman climbed up to the top of the UT tower and randomly shot at students and passerby’s. Killing 14 snd injuring at least 30 others. She hated that day, and that memory. One of her dearest friends was manning the welcome desk at the tower; she was murderer and shoved under the desk before Whitman went up the stairs. It saddened her, so. Amy Jo often talked about the logistics that day. As the first mass murderer, the world was interested. She had to arrange hundreds of phone lines brought in for reporters to get the breaking story back to their home countries. She often marvelled about how far telecommunications had come. (Especially when I gave her my Apple iPod, precursor to the iPhone, that she could read her news on!).
Speaking of news, Amy was a news addict. She subscribed to the New York Times daily (originally a retirement gift from her friends at UT) and looked it over cover to cover. ALWAYS with scissors in hand. She clip articles that friends might find interesting, and shared then. Each night after work I would walk in the door and she’d hand me my set of clippings. It was wonderful to know the news in this way! Admittedly, she was sadly disappointed I could never get into doing the NYTimes crossword puzzle. “Truly one of life’s biggest disappointments,” she said. 🙈
Amy was quite the friend to many. She, like many of her female journalist friends, never married. I remember a Hospice nurse saying to me once: “I used to think Amy and her friends were lesbians. One day it dawned on me that they were not. They lived in a time when, if a successful woman married, they had to give up their jobs, careers and independence. Amy and her friends were way too smart for that.” I believe that to be true.
When I met Amy she had such a tight circle of friends it gave me hope for my old age! Royce Dixon she knew for decades; they worked to gather for years at UT and decades later saw each other almost every day. Mary Gayle Stromberger was like her daughter; she was actually the daughter of one of Amy’s best friendS, who had died before I knew her. Amy was one of those people you wanted in your life, so I wasn’t surprised she had so many good friends!
In her younger years she was quite the partier. I recall going to the liquor store on Lamar St. and Amy said “say hello to the man who runs it. I knew his mom!” I went by, told him the hellos, and he said “I remember Amy Jo! I used to put that case of vodka in the trunk of her car every Thursday.” Me: “EVERY THURSDAY!! My god they must have drunk slot!” He put his hand to his face, looked up, and said “yep. They sure were partiers.” 😂
I feel like nothing about Amy is complete without mentioning her love of animals. Cat, dogs, butterflies, bugs. She loved them all. If it weren’t for her SHIT-zoo Max (typo intended) I probably never would have befriended her (the day she had her stroke. She called it “her stroke of luck.”). I’ll write more on that another time. Tears prevent an in-depth essay.
I could write pages more, but this is enough for now, her 100th birth anniversary. All I can say to end this is to tell you this: Amy Jo Long was the best thing that ever happened to me. She was the love of my life, and I’ll never forget her. I hope you can help me keep her memory alive.
Amy Jo Long
December 31, 1920-December 9, 2010.