It is always wonderful to meet interesting new “neighbors” through our little Village Views. John Miley and I were impressed to know that this outstanding writer lived among us. And we couldn’t resist asking him to consider writing something for us someday. We should be so lucky!
Ed Roberts….Editor Emeritus
My heroes have always been newspaper writers. So imagine how intimidated I felt as I stood at the front door of one of the finest editorial writers in this, or any other, nation. Edwin A. Roberts, Jr., answered the door. “I know that face.” I thought, and immediately felt at ease.
Roberts retired at the end of last year, after twenty years as the editor of the editorial department of The Tampa Tribune. During his tenure at the Tribune, and with his advocacy, many controversial, but ultimately beneficial projects saw the light of day. Among them: The Tampa Convention Center, the Florida Aquarium, Raymond James Stadium, Legends Field, the Performing Arts Center and the renovation of Lowry Park Zoo.
This is a man of no little influence. Those are just the things he promoted in Tampa. But for thirty years before that Roberts earned his stripes, as well as a Pulitzer Prize, in a variety of editorial departments across the nation. He always wanted to write opinion…not just straight news. He got a very big break when he landed a job at the Wall Street Journal at age 24.
In those days, Roberts recalls, news writers became editorial writers “when their legs wore out.” He had never wanted to go that route And, thanks to this early lucky break of his, he was in the right place when a vacancy occurred in the Editorial Department of the WSJ. He was encouraged to go for it, and has never looked back.
Those of us who have lived in Tampa for the past twenty years remember Ed Roberts’ reasonable approach, his kindly demeanor. Although he readily admits that he is more conservative than he is liberal, he adds, “It doesn’t make sense to be too doctrinaire.”
There is one question I can’t resist asking, “Do you think there is liberal bias in the national press?” “I don’t think it; I know it,” is he answer. Our Mr. Roberts “doesn’t like screamers,” which doesn’t surprise me. Some of his favorite opinion writers include George Will, Thomas Sowell, Charles Krauthammer. He is proud of a complimentary letter he once received from William F. Buckley.
And how does a man who has been a journalist for fifty years content himself in retirement? This man lives quietly with his wife Barbara in Phase I of Carrollwood Village, happy with his hobbies, and not at all interested in returning to the newspaper world.. He does say that he may consider some other type of writing, such as family history, which his family urges him to do.
That family includes four grown daughters, two of whom live fairly nearby. “I always wanted daughters. In my (birth) family there were four boys. So I knew how destructive boys can be. How loud.” However loud, the Roberts family was a close one. Ed has had a tough summer, losing his twin brothers in the month of August, both of natural causes. The family also now includes eight grandchildren. “Everybody comes at Christmas,” smiles Grandpa. “Hope we get a hotel nearby soon.”
A room upstairs in the Roberts home is the Train Room. A huge table is laid out with numerous electric train cars on tracks, complete with the villages and accoutrements frequently seen. These are O-gauge trains, which Roberts graduated to when his N-gauge cars became too difficult to tinker with. They are models of Pennsylvania and New Jersey trains Ed rode on as a boy. He is interested in contacting other O-gauge hobbyists, especially those who may be knowledgeable about electrical wiring.
Another hobby is gardening, which he shares with Barbara. Their well-cared for yard attests to this hobby. It is one feature that attracted the Roberts’s to this Village home “I was really happy to be in Tampa in 1983. Being Yankees (from New Jersey) we wanted a good-sized lawn and a pool. We had two daughters still at home, too.”
Although many of his Tribune co-workers urged him to live in South Tampa, Carrollwood Village it was. To this day, Roberts dislikes driving to Downtown Tampa, even for lunch with old friends. “I’m getting lazy in my retirement.” He hastens to add, “But I haven’t been bored a minute.”
Although Ed and Barbara haven’t traveled the way they did before retirement, Barbara still does, with friends. She also quilts, and is very good at it. It is obvious that this long-married pair is extremely compatible and comfortable with their lives.
The afternoon has flown by, as I have chatted with Ed Roberts. I finally admit to him that although I was intimated to be interviewing him, I found him to be so easy-going, so genial and friendly that it had been a pleasure.
He had shared with me some of his own memorable interviews. Guy Lombardo and Benny Goodman from the world of music. Gertrude Ederle, who swam the English Channel. There were many luminaries.
Roberts favorite interview, however,was a three-hour dinner event with Ronald Reagan on the Sunday before the Tuesday Michigan primary that first named him as presidential nominee. He remembers that shaking hands with Reagan was like shaking hands with a cowhand. “Mr. Reagan, you’ve been a movie star. You’ve been Governor of California. Why do you want to run for President?”
“Because I want to make changes,” the great man said.
I thought back over my conversation with my new friend, Ed Roberts.When he came to The Tampa Tribune twenty years ago, he felt much the same way as Regan. He hoped to have some influence in changing things in Tampa. And that he did.