By Robert Mann
Louisiana journalism lost a giant today.
I’m saddened to share the news of Wiley Hilburn’s death at the age of 75.
Anyone who’s lived in north Louisiana over the past 30 years knows that name well. As the longtime chair of the Journalism Department at Louisiana Tech, Wiley not only trained and inspired several generations of journalists, he wrote a widely read column for the Shreveport Times. Wiley was the dean of Louisiana columnists and the most-gifted chronicler of north Louisiana life over the past half-century.
I became Wiley’s friend in the early 1980s, when I moved to Ruston to work for the Monroe News-Star. Although I was a graduate of the rival journalism program at Northeast Louisiana University (now ULM), Wiley took me under his wing and treated me like I was one of his students.
I learned a great deal about life and journalism from him. In fact, I got my first big break in journalism — getting hired as the political writer for the Shreveport Journal — because Wiley vouched for me.
He was a kind man. He had integrity. He was compassionate. And he had a singular voice. I’m very sorry that, today, that voice has fallen silent.
Just last Saturday, I was passing through Ruston, in a hurry, on my way to Homer for a funeral. I told my friends that I must get back to Ruston sometime soon to check on Wiley. I hadn’t seen him in years and knew he’d had serious health problems, but also celebrated the news that he was back in (relatively) good health. That’s why today’s news came as a particular shock.
I’m reminded today how brief this life is and how fleeting are our opportunities to renew old friendships and to simply say, “Thanks for what you did for me.”
If you didn’t know Wiley, I’m very sorry. You would have loved him. He was a great man and mentor to hundreds.
May he rest in peace.