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John Milton Wesley

The Passing of Tim Russert
by John Milton Wesley

I never worked with or for Tim Russert, although I’ve watched him religiously throughout my career in media and communications. He had that “light” or “glow” I came to recognize in the men in media I want to emulate.

Poet John Milton referred to this light in his poem Paradise Lost. He enclosed, or surrounded, God, Adam and Eve, and even Satan in different levels of the same. Each had a different glow, and ironically God’s was not the brightest light. Go figure! To find whose glow was the brightest you’ll have to read Paradise Lost.

In fact, I think Paradise Lost might just be the best way to describe the passing of Tim Russert. Those of us who experienced that sinking feeling on Friday when we first learned of Tim’s passing knew immediately a little bit of our luster went with him. We knew each time we saw him work he made us better. And each time we saw him, no matter how many times we saw him in a day or a week, we got better and we knew it. This was not because Tim was necessarily the “best” we had seen in “the business” – though if he were not, he had to be in the top three – but because the best “the business” has to offer was evident and embodied in him. He loved his work. He loved his family. He loved his country. He loved his friends. He loved his competitors.

We never got enough of him because we knew he was “that good,” and somehow if he knew it he never let on. As a result, despite how often his colleagues or the viewing public saw him, Tim Russert was never in danger of over-exposure. His presence in the room, whether on television or in person, was never overwhelming, just enlightening.

Losing him reminds all of us that the death of a peer (he was 58 years old and I am 59) brings with it a sense of instant mortality, and that bad things can happen to “good people,” and any time we lose good people we experience Paradise Lost.


USADS is proud to welcome John Milton Wesley, an internationally acclaimed writer, to our pages. Read one of his poems here.

And don't miss the text of this speech: Too Black To Turn Back

Place of residence: Ellicott City, Maryland

Birthplace: Ruleville, Mississippi

Grew up in: Delta of Mississippi. Moved to Jackson on June 12, 1963, the night Medgar Evers was gunned down in his driveway.

Day job: Partnership development, marketing, media and idea development, consulting

Education: Tougaloo College, Mississippi. Yale University. Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Anthologies: Black Southern Voices. Mississippi Writers, Volume III

Serial publications: Essence Magazine. Prevention. Pipeland Magazine

Awards: Reader’s Digest United Negro College Fund First Place Award for Poetry, 1968. Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Outstanding Community Service Award, 1988. National Conference of Blacks in Government

Current project: Novel and screenplay set in 1957 Mississippi

Favorite book: Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins

Belief: Despite fame, weather will determine the attendance at your funeral.

To find out more about this award-winning writer, visit


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