Auburn University Journalism Awards to honor novelist, distinguished journalists

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Best-selling detective novelist Ace Atkins is one of five honorees who will receive a 2013 Auburn Journalism Award. The other honorees are editor and publisher Guy N. Rhodes of The Tuskegee News, sports columnist Mike Easterling, formerly of The Huntsville Times, Auburn University journalism professor Ed Williams and Associated Press Montgomery reporter Phillip Rawls.

Honorees will accept their awards during a luncheon ceremony at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center on Friday, April 19, at 11:30 a.m. The Auburn University Journalism Advisory Council presents the annual awards “to recognize and honor the best professional performers in our field with Alabama roots,” said Roy Bain, Auburn Journalism Awards committee chairman.

Atkins will be presented the Distinguished Auburn University Alumnus in Journalistic Achievement Award. He followed his father, the late Billy Atkins, as a member of the Auburn football team. He worked as a crime reporter at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times and The Tampa Tribune before publishing his first novel, “Crossroad Blues.” Atkins became a full-time novelist at age 30. His next novels were “Wicked City” and “Devil’s Garden.” He has written more than a dozen novels about hard-bitten characters and in 2011 was selected by the Robert B. Parker estate as the writer to continue Parker’s Spenser series of novels, the first of which is “Lullaby.” The 1994 Auburn University graduate lives with his family on a farm 15 miles outside Oxford, Miss.

Rhodes is to receive the Distinguished Alabama Community Journalist Award. The veteran journalist, a 1969 Auburn University graduate, served in the Army from 1970-72 during the Vietnam War. While a student at Auburn, Rhodes served as a sports correspondent for the Atlanta Constitution, Montgomery Advertiser and Columbus (Ga.) Enquirer while also serving on The Auburn Plainsman staff. He had brief reporting stints at the Montgomery Advertiser and Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Rhodes served as executive sports editor and managing editor of the Opelika-Auburn News from 1973-90 before joining the Auburn Bulletin and Tuskegee News in 1990. The News has received nearly three dozen Alabama Press Association Better Newspaper awards since Rhodes joined its staff.

Easterling will be presented the Distinguished Alabama Community Sports Journalist Award. He is the former prep sports editor of The Huntsville Times and the son of the late Huntsville columnist Bill Easterling. Mike Easterling carved his own niche by becoming “widely recognized as the most knowledgeable, entertaining and informative authority on high school sports in Huntsville, Madison County and the Tennessee Valley region,” said long-time Huntsville Times sports editor John Pruett.

Mike Easterling received more than a dozen awards for his sports writing.

Williams will receive the Distinguished Special Achievement in Journalism Award after teaching journalism at Auburn University for 30 years. He plans to retire in June. Besides his classroom duties, Williams served as adviser to The Auburn Plainsman for 23 years. The campus newspaper was awarded 13 Pacemaker awards in those years, the highest national honor in student journalism. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama, and then worked at four newspapers in Alabama before joining the Auburn faculty in 1983. He stepped down as Plainsman adviser in 2008 to continue his teaching role. He has endowed the Ed Williams Scholarship to be awarded to journalism students who work at The Plainsman.

Rawls will receive the Distinguished Mass Media Achievement Award. Rawls is a veteran Alabama statehouse reporter for the Associated Press and “is among the most accomplished reporters in Alabama history, setting a standard for government reporting across print, digital and broadcast platforms,” said Bill Barrow, himself a former Alabama statehouse reporter. “Phillip has covered Alabama politics and government for almost 35 years, nearly all of it with AP. In that time, he has chronicled every significant personality, election tussle and policy debate familiar to Alabama news consumers,” Barrow said. He also described Rawls as someone who, between the banner headline stories, excels at finding ways to inform about lesser known aspects of state government. “Everyone reads what is under Phillip’s byline, because they know it is accurate, complete and fair,” a fellow reporter added.

“These annual awards recognize community journalism, in particular, because it is a bedrock discipline of Auburn journalism’s education mission,” said Jennifer Wood Adams, Auburn University journalism program director.

Tickets are $50 per person for the 2013 Auburn Journalism Awards Luncheon and Ceremony and may be purchased by credit card or check. To pay by credit card online, go to the website at Checks should be made out to Auburn University, with “Friends of Journalism” in the memo line.

Send checks to: Jennifer Wood Adams, Journalism Program Director, 232 Tichenor Hall, Auburn, AL 36849. The deadline for reservations is Wednesday, April 10.

Nomination letters for the awards are accepted September through October. Current and former professionals are eligible. For more information about the awards, go to

(Contributed by Jennifer Wood Adams.)

Contact: Jennifer Wood Adams, Journalism Program Director, (334) 844-2751, (, or Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999, (