News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

November 2, 2008

The Off Season: ‘Ink still runs in former editor’s veins’

The first time that I ever sat at a desk on the third floor of the old Tribune-Star Building on Wabash Avenue, a rough and callow college kid who thought more about making meal money as a writer than actually becoming one, Jimmy Claus stood just behind me and looked over my shoulder. It was Jimmy who showed me how to use an old, electric typewriter, how to go about marking copy with those blasted red and black felt-tipped pens we used in those days, and it was Jimmy who gave me my first chance to write a real story, not just rewrite someone else’s.

I can’t pay Jimmy for what he did for me all those years ago, but I can tell you a little bit about him. We caught up over dinner last week.

Jim is 81 years old now and has had more surgeries than he can remember; he lost his wife of nearly a half-century a few years back, too. Life hasn’t been easy for him in the last decade or so, but it hasn’t been too long ago that a lot of doors were open to this avuncular and friendly man.

He started working for the Terre Haute Tribune — the town’s evening newspaper — on Jan. 1, 1957, and he spent the next 28 years writing his column, “Sporting Around.”

He was following the fortunes of the Chicago Bears, fretting about the paper’s rather unsettled weekend deadline and breaking in college kids like me.

He was born on Oct. 5, 1927, in Wichita, Kan., to Mildred and Charles Claus Sr., and newspaper ink was surely in his blood; his dad worked in advertising at the local paper and Jim was a copy boy there by the time he was in the seventh grade. It was that experience with Jack Copeland, the paper’s “crusty old sports editor,” that gave Jim the newspaper bug; I think he still has it.

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