Saturday, May 24, 2008

First Capitol News Sports - Mike McMurran Sports Editor

(click on image to enlarge)
Top photo First Capitol News Photographer Bob Barton with World Boxing Promoter Don King
Bottom photo First Capitol News Sports Editor Mike McMurran with Leon Spinks, former world heavyweight champion.

By Mike McMurran, First Capitol News Sports Editor

Today’s column will deal with two points. One, I talked to Leon Spinks lately, and he remembers the two times he knocked me out. Now I’m not certain that is something I should be proud of, nor am I even completely convinced he knew of what I was talking about, but he said he did. He even agreed to have our picture taken together as a memento of the occasion – fortunately for me, Bob Barton had camera in hand and was ready to shoot, as he usually is.

I’ve two Barton photos framed and hung on the wall in my class; the one published in today’s edition of me and the former World Heavyweight Champion of the World, and one with my son, Daniel, and Don King. That’s what I really want to discuss today, Barton’s photos, and how he got to a position in his life where he is one of, if not the most recognized boxing photographer in the St. Louis Region.

Before I go any further, I must share that I have known Bob for over 31 years. Back in the late 70’s we were pretty close, then as often times happen, our life took separate courses. After 25 years we were reunited and our friendship took on a different meaning – yet, it was if we had been best friends the entire time.

Bob started taking pictures when he was 13 years-old – and has been going strong ever since. By his own recollection, he has taken over 350,000 photos. He attended Hazelwood High School, back in the days when there was only one Hazelwood. It seems Bob had a small problem with authority, or, if you will, had a problem with people telling him what he could and couldn’t do. Hence his high school career was rather short lived. Back in those days, if you didn’t finish high school, the powers to be would always suggest, “Join the military, they’ll straighten you out.” In Bob’s situation it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to join the military, what with his problem with being told what to do and all. Didn’t matter, Bob enlisted in the Navy. Lasted all of 42 days as he was released for “failure to adapt to military life.” Even a blind-man could have seen that one coming.

After being released from the Navy, Bob got a job with St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic, a career from which he retired this past winter. For a high school drop-out, Bob didn’t do too badly for himself. At the age of 27 he enrolled in school and earned a Civil Engineering technology degree. With his new degree in hand, Bob started road construction inspection work, working his way up to the lead inspector on the Metro Link project. All the while Bob was taking pictures, hundreds of thousands of pictures – mostly for his own pleasure.

Some five years or so ago, when I started writing for Tony, it became painfully clear to me that I was a much better writer than I was photographer. Luckily for me, Bob’s youngest child, Jessie, had just gone away to college, and Bob had a large void in his life. It was bad enough Jessie was living in Cape while attending SEMO (from which she has since graduated), her older brother, Bobby was living in Fulton and attending Westminister (he too has since graduated). Bob and I became a team, writing for and taking pictures for Tony and the First Capitol News. It was something we both took seriously and hoped would open other doors for us. For Bob it worked, I, on the other hand have not had such luck.
Since he was first “published” in the First Capitol News, Bob’s photography career has really taken off. In addition to being the St. Louis American’s primary boxing photographer, Bob has been published in The St. Louis Post Dispatch, Commerce Magazine, Crossroads Magazine, The Community News, The Army News, The Hard Hat News, Rumble Time Promotions, and The Fox Network. All the while, Bob declares his allegiance as well as loyalty to Tony and the FCN. Oh wait, did I mention Bob is the staff photographer for Jessie Finney’s Shamrock Promotions? He is!

Ladies and gentlemen, believe me, in the Saint Louis Region, when it comes to the boxing world, Bob Barton is a very respected person – and I mean very respected. At the most recent Corrie Spinks fight, downtown at the Savvis Center, I left it up to Bob to secure our media credentials. Was I ever surprised when I took my seat and found FOX, KMOV, KSKD and the mighty KMOX all seated behind me. The only writer present with better seats than I was the writers for the Post. Bob knows the fight world. At the pre-fight press conference with Devon Alexander, when Alexander entered the room, the first person he walked up to was Barton. He gave him a big hug!

Of all of Bob’s accomplishments, nothing brings him more pride and joy than his family. He has been married to his wife Kitty for over 25 years now, and after 25 years she remains his best friend. I’ve traveled often with Bob, and his favorite topic of discussion is his family. After that, it’s photography. Not just the button pushing, getting the right amount of light, or being in the right place at the right time – but rather the journey. The sleeping in tents during a blizzard to get the right shot of a herd of elk in the mountains. Yeah, that’s the crazy kind of stuff he does to get his pictures.

Bob has been compensated thousands of dollars for his pictures. One of the things that makes Bob so special is what it is he does with the money he earns from his pictures. Whether it be The First Capitol News, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, or pieces sold from Framation Art Gallery on Main Street, Bob donates all the money he gets from his pictures to charity. As Bob puts it, “I think the best charity given is anonymous,” so his charity of choice will in fact remain anonymous. I do know the charity recently received an anonymous thousand dollar donation, as Bob sold eight or so of his fight pictures, which will adorn the office of a local fight promoter.

Congratulations Bob, on your recent retirement. More importantly, on your life; on your life as a husband, a father – and from the perspective from which I know you best – a friend.