By Glynn Wilson –
MOBILE, Ala. — I just learned that my long-time close friend and former editor Dan Rutledge recently died in Baldwin County, Alabama.
According to an obituary published on the Gulf Coast Media newspapers Website, Robert “Danny Boy” Rutledge died at his home in Stockton on Wednesday, Feb. 3, after a long bought with prostate cancer. He was 74.
Rutledge was born in Talladega, Alabama on June 1, 1941. I met him in 1984 when I took a job covering politics and the courts in Bay Minette for The Baldwin Times. It was my first professional newspaper reporting job after graduating from the University of Alabama, and Dan became a friend and mentor from the first day.
I left the local paper to take a job at a daily in 1985, but when I grew restless in Birmingham in 1989, Rutledge was instrumental in getting me hired to cover politics and the environment at The Islander in Gulf Shores, where I worked through 1992. There are many stories from those times in my new memoir just out as an Amazon Kindle Book: Jump On The Bus.
Rutledge was a gentle soul who enjoyed a vegetarian lifestyle and took vitamins to stay healthy to live a long life. But his life was marred by a traffic accident he suffered right after Hurricane Ivan hit the Alabama Gulf Coast, when he failed to see a pickup truck coming down the road due to debris piled up on the side of the road. The truck rammed into the side of his car and caused him great pain, ending his newspaper reporting, writing and editing career.
Rutledge loved the Gulf Coast and the people of Baldwin County, even when they got angry at the newspaper and didn’t always love him back. He also loved covering local sports. But after he left Gulf Coast Newspapers, he wrote for me covering college sports for The Locust Fork News-Journal at LocustFork.Net.
He graduated from the Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama at the age of 16. According to his official obituary, he then joined the United States Air Force, which sent him to Yale University to study Chinese for the Central Intelligence Agency. Funny, but he never told me that story.
According to his family, Rutledge was “a gifted writer and a beloved coach.”
In his newspaper career, before he settled down in Baldwin County and wrote for Gulf Coast Newspapers, he wrote for the Tampa Tribune, the Atlanta Constitution, the Troy Messenger and the Talladega Daily Home.
“Dan was one of the best sportswriters in the state,” according to his obituary. “He did it the right way, covering as many games in person as possible, taking his own photos and getting the story in under the wire for the paper the next day.”
He received numerous accolades and awards for his writing over the years, from Best Writer, Best Feature Story, Best Column and more.
Rutledge’s coaching career began in the 1960s when he coached his brother, Kimbo Rutledge, in the Talladega Recreation League. He broke the glass ceiling for girls softball by making it a legitimate sport in Baldwin and Mobile counties.
When he coached his daughter, Love Rutledge Drumwright in the 1980s, he led girls softball 10 and under (Baldwin Eye Clinic) to win the Alabama State Championship. He also coached the Satsuma Rebels (16 and under) to a National Championship for girls softball in 1994. The next six years his teams placed in the top five with two second-place wins nationally between 1988 and 1994.
“Dan’s writing and spiritual journey lasted all the days of his life, which he approached with a child’s curiosity and a champion’s heart,” according to his obit.
Danny was preceded in death by his parents, Robert (Cotton) and Lydia Rutledge; his first wife, Lonie Rutledge; granddaughter, Callie Wright; grandson, Sean Herrington.
He is survived by his wife, Luann Rutledge; his daughters, Dee Dee Dye, Leslie Wright, Love Drumwright; his son, Robert Rutledge Jr.; his sister, Pam Ausley; his brothers, Roderick Rutledge and Kimbo Rutledge; his six grandchildren; and a multitude of lifelong friends and fans.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, people donate to the North Baldwin Animal Shelter or to Callie’s Kids of Talladega. Rutledge was a lover of animals and adopted many stray dogs over the years.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.