The Day the Fun Died

It’s hard to imagine Columbus without Sam Rawls. If anyone had stage presence, it was Sam. All he had to do was walk into the room and you knew he was there. But, you knew he wouldn’t just  walk into the room. He would have everyone laughing in no time with his insults of the most prominent people there. You could say that he  was Columbus’ Don Rickles.  Quite  often he was the butt of his own jokes.  He was one of the kidders who could appreciate  return fire.  That is  not always the case with kidders. On some public occasions, I would be the target of his kidding, which pleased me a lot, because it was an honor to be singled out by Sam. I also managed to return the favor a few times.

He is going to be missed by so many people and groups.

He was active at  his church, Trinity Episcopal.

He was a force at the Schwob School of Music, not only contributing funds himself, but raising even more with his birthday parties.  How many people do you know who would throw their own birthday party in a room the size of the Bill Heard Theater at  the River  Center?  There was no admission charge for the entertainment, which could range from a stand-up comedian to a concert pianist, but he would give you the opportunity of contributing to the Schwob School.

This photograph of a young Sam Rawls and the portrait above were both furnished by Jim Cawthorne of Camera1. Jim is also a fellow Rotarian, and Sam's friend, as well as mine.

He was also a big supporter of the Springer Opera House.  That support included not just money, but performing in a number of plays. That’s where Sam and I became friends, acting in Springer plays directed by the  late Charles Jones. Among the plays we were in together were The Crucible and How to Succeed in  Business Without Really Trying.  The Crucible,  a heavy  drama about the Salem witch  trials, was an interesting challenge for both of us, but the most fun was How to Succeed.  It was the one and only time I ever sang on stage.  And, as Bud Frumph, I got a lot of laughs.  I must have done it  pretty well since Sam said, “You were nominated for the wrong part.”   He was referring to the Springer’s version of the Tonys. I had gotten nominated for Best Actor in Death of a Salesman. Turned out he was right. I probably would have won Best Supporting Actor for How to Succeed.  As it turned out I didn’t win Best Actor.

Sam was also one of the main players in the Rotary Club of Columbus.  Not only was he active in serving on different committees, but you could count on him to give everyone a laugh during a lot of the  meetings.

When I did a talk at Rotary premiering my memoir The Newsman, I asked Sam to do the introduction, which he did.  The late S.L. Mullins, fellow Rotarian and student at Jordan Vocational High School, who was also a big  kidder, came up to the head table before  the program started and said, loud enough for Sam to hear, “What did you do, buy some insurance to get him to introduce you?”   I didn’t.

Yes, like hundreds of others, I loved Sam and will  miss him.  And my heart goes out to his family, including his wife of 58 years, Jacquie, and his son Robin Scott Rawls, and his two grandchildren.

No, Columbus won’t be the same without Sam.

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