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  • Writer's pictureNeal Spelce

Bill Moyers. Take Time to Float.

I first met Bill Moyers in 1953, though he probably doesn’t remember it. I was a 17-year-old snare drummer and Bill was the emcee of a summer band concert-in-the-park in the deep East Texas town of Marshall. We were both on summer break as students from the University of Texas in Austin. Soon thereafter, our lives started to intertwine. We’ve been lifelong, long-distance friends since that time. We talk. We laugh.

Bill Moyers and Neal Spelce
Photo: Bill Moyers & Neal Spelce

My admiration and respect for Bill’s brilliance began early and has grown exponentially since then. Turns out, I was asked to fill Bill’s shoes (I fell way short, I might add) as a part-time reporter at KTBC-TV in Austin. We were both still UT students. And when Bill left the job, my UT journalism professor recommended me. I became aware right away that Bill had set an amazingly high bar of accomplishment.

And that high bar has been Bill’s standard to this day.

By the way, the public first became aware of Bill when, just minutes before Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Bill was whisked to Dallas to join LBJ on Air Force One before the plane took off for Washington, bearing the dead president’s body. Bill became LBJ’s White House press secretary.

Bill’s national media career is legendary. No need to recite his many successes here. Just Google him. It is truly impressive. His contributions during recent decades have been his acclaimed work on PBS.

What I want to point out now is some personal advice he gave to me two decades ago that still rings true today. Not many are aware that Bill was a seminary student back in the day. He was an ordained minister.

But they may be aware Bill’s body of professional work has included some important productions about philosophy, faith, and theology. In fact, one of his most memorable shows was where he spent the entire program analyzing the legendary hymn, Amazing Grace.

As I write in my just-released memoir With The Bark Off, A Journalist’s Memories of LBJ and a Life in the News Media: “He did something very special for me when I had five bypasses in open heart surgery. Bill had heart surgery himself and he sent me the sweetest personal note.”

This was more than 20 years ago. He was telling me to settle down, take it easy, relax.

And he gave me words to live by in his own, eloquent way: “Don’t forget to take time to float every day.”

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