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OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Nothing to fear

by Mike Masterson | June 13, 2021 at 8:57 a.m.

I'm assuming you have one, and probably your kids, too. After all, don't we all have a cell phone by now?

My friend Danny Timbrook reminded me the other day that those who fear taking the vaccine to prevent covid-19 out of the baseless concern it might also contain a minuscule double-naught, super-secret tracking device can already be easily tracked in 2021 America.

Our cell phones already reveal our location at any given time, what games we've played, shopping preferences, what food we order and who we communicated with and for how long.

I've had both of my shots. How about you, valued reader?

Miss Willie's first year

Remember former inmate Willie Mae Harris? She's the the Black, blind, gentle and wise grandmother whose sentence our governor rightly commuted after she'd spent 34 years behind bars for the murder of her husband that she maintains was accidental.

Miss Willie's attorney, Lee Eaton of New Orleans, celebrated her client's first year of freedom the other day by sending a photograph taken on Miss Willie's first day of freedom and this message:

"Remembering this joyous day one year ago and feeling all of you and the oh so special journey we traveled together. I am so grateful to all of you--our team, our village. For those that may not know--in the photo sister Dorothy on left, Shantee (Dorothy's daughter/Willie's niece) on right. ...

"I will never forget the FaceTime Shantee set up in the midst of the family gathering at Cracker Barrel shortly after this photo. The background was filled with chaotic excited chatter but Willie--to me--was as clear and steady and grateful and full of 'the spirit' as I have known her to be the entire time I've known her.

"Even after, thanks to Mike Masterson, a good portion of the state of Arkansas showed up (in person, print or spirit) for her send-home.

"At Cracker Barrel, she was patiently waiting for her First Supper (any excitement was not going to mess with this girl's appetite, some of us know so well)--a plate of chicken-fried steak. After years of hearing about Willie's food allergies, including chicken, I had a gut reaction, 'hmmmm, hope she doesn't get sick.'

"Martha expressed the same reaction to Corinne, who reminded both of us that chicken-fried steak is not chicken--LOL!

"I realized this early on and nothing has changed all of these years: I have a life sentence too; I will always have Willie's welfare out front and center. And in return, as all God-driven deeds go, I am rewarded with the blessings of a friendship like no other. She likes to refer to me as her 'counselor.' Little does she know, she's mine.

"Sending love to all of you in honor of this very special anniversary."

Don't you wish we all could all share such feelings of happiness and genuine concern for each other regardless of our skin color and the differences we share in the ways we think and believe?

Perroni and Bailey

Little Rock attorney Sam Perroni wrote the other day following the passing of famed lawyer F. Lee Bailey to share a memory.

He said he believed I'd be interested in the lunch he once shared with Bailey in Little Rock, and Bailey's legal involvement in the O.J. Simpson acquittal.

"There was an article about F. Lee Bailey passing away," Perroni said. "It talked about the Simpson case and how O.J. said Bailey was the most effective lawyer he had defending him. He elaborated about some of Bailey's skills and the way he handled himself.

"About 1998, Bailey came to Little Rock for a seminar. I don't remember who was putting it on, but Lee stayed for lunch. I was sitting at a table with him and about four other people, criminal defense attorneys, I think.

"People were chit-chatting about the weather and such because they were in the presence of a celebrity. Since I had done commentary on the Simpson case for KARK as a legal analyst, as well as a call-in show for KARN news, I wanted to know about the case.

"I'd heard Bailey had never been paid for his services and that Robert Shapiro, who got Bailey involved, had been the only one to make any money because he charged O.J. $100,000 per month. As you know, the case went on for over a year. A million dollars was a big fee back then--it still is!

"At any rate, after a few minutes of mundane conversation, I asked Bailey to comment about the rumors and the case. He stiffened and launched into a rant, saying getting involved was the worst decision he ever made. Not only did he not get paid, Bailey said after the verdict he became an outcast. I find that ironic, don't you think?"

Yes, Sam, ironic but not all that surprising, considering widespread resentment over the outcome which, while great for O.J.'s defense team, left much of the nation aghast.

The potential irony just dawned on me, Sam. I wonder if by being a legal expert for KARK and others, you may have come out better financially by commenting on Bailey than the man upon whom you were commenting.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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