The Last Assignment
A fond remembrance of Mac Overton
“If I were a condemned man the Country Breakfast at Cracker Barrel would be my last meal.”
Laughter was laced with tears as lifelong friends gave special tributes to James “Mac” McCollum Overton, former editor of the Gilmer Mirror Newspaper. Overton a rare pancreatic cancer survivor of over 7 years, died Sunday June 5, 2016 from other health issues.
Overton himself had outlined the service and in a sense, gave his wishes or directives for the last assignment to be fulfilled by his friends and colleagues. Approximately 50 people attended the service held at the Church of God Big Sandy building on June 26, 2016. Music selections by Overton were Cross the Green Mountain by Bob Dylan, My Old Friend by Tim McGraw and Going Home by Mary Fhal. A potluck meal followed the service.
Church of God Big Sandy, Pastor Dave Havir read Mac’s obituary and three of his close friends, Linda Smith, Dixon Cartwright, and Scott Moss shared memories. A memorial from Scott Ashley was read. Each of the long time friends had met Overton when he was a college student at Ambassador College in the mid 1970’s. They also spent time working alongside Overton at The Worldwide News, a church publication of the Worldwide Church of God. A memorial tribute was also read from Richard Lingle, former chief of police at Big Sandy who had worked in conjunction with Overton when he was editor of the newspaper. All described Overton as a loyal friend throughout the years.
Overton was born March 24, 1950 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He is survived by four daughters, their spouses and six grandchildren, his mother, two brothers, four sisters, many nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends.
After graduating valedictorian from Qulin high School, Overton attended Three Rivers College and graduated from Arkansas State at Jonesboro. He received his Bachelors in Liberal Arts graduating with honors from Ambassador College in Big Sandy Texas in 1976. He went on to receive a Masters in Communications from University of Texas in 1990, finishing with a 4.0, and then pursued doctorial studies at Texas A & M in Commerce.
Widely recognized as a dedicated print journalist, Overton’s combined natural curiosity and storytelling ability made him a born newspaper man. He worked as editor of Big Sandy Journal from 1982-1986 and became editor of Gilmer Mirror in January 1992 retiring in 2015. Overton was highly regarded by his colleagues.
“Mac helped many (police) officers do their job and helped catch many criminals,” Richard Lingle, commented in his memorial tribute. He told of how Overton rode with him many times and learned to find facts that were missed due to his ability to ask questions in a friendly and professional manner. “If we disagreed we would not get mad but talk it out until it was good for both of our goals.” Lingle continued, “I also knew if I messed up he (Mac) would not cover it up.” Lingle also commented of Overton’s honesty and as well as the respect he had earned from the police force.
Overton was known for being kind, humble, generous and very thankful. Especially in the last 7 years, as a rare cancer survivor, he was extremely grateful to be alive. He was thankful for God, faith, family and friends. He was also known for enjoying potlucks socials, dry humor, and sharp pointy things.
An avid knife collector he was distinguished internationally as a noted expert on collector knives, writing features and reviews for trade publications for many years.
“I remember when I first met Mac. He was sitting at his desk, leaning back in the chair and flipping a knife in his hand,” commented Linda Smith.
“If Mac had not been a journalist, he would have been a frontiersman, and he would have been wearing a coonskin hat all of the time,” Smith surmised during her tribute. “I could see him riding off into the sunset, on his horse, with his dog, gun and the knife tied to his knee.” She used interview questions from a magazine to help the audience gain insight into Mac’s personality.
What time in history would Mac go back to if given the chance? Without a doubt Smith commented that he would have gone back into the time of the Alamo and been there with Bowie and Crocket. She guessed that his interest in knives began with that story. He talked constantly about the Bowie Knife and had approximately 400 collector knives. “Have you seen my latest knife?” was often his conversation starter. But his love of history was deeper than knives.
“Freedom” seemed to be a link between Overton’s favorite times in history. His favorite movie, “Brave Heart” dealt with the call to fight for “Freedom,” from King Edward 1st. Overton was very opinionated about the civil war and even called it “The War of the Northern Aggression.” He also enjoyed learning about the Cherokee and Celtic nations. His learning continued with even deeper questions about God.
Questions such as why does God allow suffering, the role of sin and repentance, and forgiveness that is available through Jesus was the top Overton’s theological thoughts. He served as a writer for the In Transition and later The Journal a periodical that serves the readership of the Worldwide Church of God and its sister churches.
“He (Mac) loved his family and was proud of them. He loved his friends, his creator and knew they would meet in the resurrection. He always said he hoped it would be the good one and not the fiery one.” Scott Moss reminisced about his conversations with Overton.
In his spare time Mac liked to go to garage sales and the clothes closet at the Methodist Church in Gilmer. This filled his trademark clothing styles with wild ties, multi pocketed vests and jackets “so he could whip out sharp pointed objects, high tech pens, and flashlights,” Smith reminisced. He loved to eat good food; among his favorite places were the Summit Club and Cracker Barrel in Lindale.
“If I were a condemned man the Country Breakfast at Cracker Barrel would be my last meal.”Smith quoted Overton’s joke. She also said Overton enjoyed his doggy friends and had had full-fledged conversations with them.
“I was 20 years old when I first met Mac and he was a grizzly old wise man of 25,” remarked Scott Ashley. Being a natural historian, Overton was full of “wise” humor. Ashley quoted Overton as saying, “An optimist thinks this is the best possible world. A pessimist is afraid that the optimist is right.”
“Mac you met your last deadline, put your final issue to bed, until we meet again,” Ashley commented.
Lingle summed up the feelings of family and friends. “Mac will be missed, Mac is ALREADY missed.”
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to Upshur County Hope House for Pets, P.O. Box 187 Gilmer TX 75644 or The Clothes Closet of FUMC Gilmer 105 N. Montgomery St, Gilmer TX 75644.