TriceEdney – Like most residents in the Washington DC television market, I was saddened at the recent passing of Jim Vance, evening co-anchor of the local NBC affiliate. This week, I join those who devote their thoughts and expressions in tribute and condolence for a man who worked his way from reading the evening news to becoming the region’s iconic and consummate broadcast professional and “friend” of everyone who watched him with regularity.
While not diminishing the significance of his professional contributions or his personal character, the recurring exposure to Jim Vance caused many to look at him more as a constant presence than the trailblazer he was in his profession. Those of us who remember his 30+ years on DC TV will recall the challenges he fought through and the much-improved person he became as he emerged from them. Those who took the opportunity to observe how he faced his impending death admire his courage and his strength, but must admit that he faced his life with the same courage and strength.
Dr. E. Faye Williams
Although Jim was addressing voter apathy among millennials when he spoke on air, these words reflect his world view and his sense of responsibility to his community and to himself. “There was a time, thirty or so years ago, when I was miserable. Most unhappy with myself, my life, my job. Hanging out with a friend one night, told him all about it, particularly my intention to quit my job. His question, who’s gonna take your place? My answer, don’t know, don’t care. That’s when he dropped something on me that’s informed many decisions since that day. He said to me, ‘You have to care, and you can’t quit. Too many people suffered mightily to put you in that seat, got their heads busted open, attacked by savage dogs, smashed into walls by fire hoses. Somebody else can up and quit whenever they want to, but you can’t. Unless and until there’s somebody who looks like you to sit in that chair. Cause you owe too much, to too many people.’ Then he told me to get off my pity pot and get back to work…”
At the dedication of the new mural at Ben’s Chili Bowl, I was invited to introduce my dear friend, Dick Gregory. Although I sat next to Jim, because of the advanced nature of the cancer that had afflicted him, I did not immediately recognize him. But with Jim Vance being who he was, it did not take long for me to recognize that same warmth and humanity that I had witnessed streaming from my television screen for all these years. He, too, was there because he was being honored with a place on Ben’s Chili Bowl mural.
As I sat and listened to the final public words I would hear from Jim’s own mouth, I was singularly impressed that with death so close, he offered no anger or regret. Instead, he spoke with humility and gratitude. It was clear from his short speech that he was unapologetically thankful for the life he had been allowed to live and for the lessons that he had been able to model. His last words to those gathered were, “My blessings continue to flow and I thank each and every one of you. And may God bestow them upon you too.”
As I reflect on what others declare that Jim Vance meant to them, I can only hope that when my epitaph is written I will share a portion of the accolades showered upon Jim. An important thought for all of us to embrace and aspire to is that our lives are truly measured by the good we do for others. Goodbye Jim and thanks for a life well-lived!
Dr. E. Faye Williams can be reached at: www.nationalcongressbw.org; or at, 202/678-6788