There will never be another journalist like Bill Mardis

Mar 1, 2021


Commonwealth Journal, Somerset, Kentucky

Bill Mardis was not only a Legend in community journalism, but at the Commonwealth Journal newspaper, he was an Icon.

I became fast friends with Bill Mardis when he was brought back as our editor emeritus about 20 years ago. At that time, according to my work colleagues, Bill was more mellow than when he was the managing editor of the newspaper.

During my time at the Commonwealth Journal, I spent countless hours talking and learning from the master of journalism. Bill Mardis' vast knowledge of events, politics and people of the local area was astounding.

And while we possessed bound volumes of all the past local newspapers dating back to the 1940s, Bill Mardis was usually a more reliable source of local history than printed words on a paper.

Every event, every election, every major crime and every local personality was stored away in his fertile journalistic mind — and could be brought back in exact details at a moment's notice.

Almost in his 90s, Bill Mardis came to work everyday with the same commitment and professionalism as he probably did on his first day on the job back in 1963.
A business dress suit, a cotton white shirt, a conservative neck tie and dress shoes were his everyday attire to work. There were no casual Fridays or blue jean days for Mr. Mardis — never.

Tucked away in his corner office of the newsroom, Bill Mardis always stayed focused on his work, whether it was interviewing one of his thousands of sources or writing a feature story.

His office was littered with a few office memorabilia pieces he had collected over the years. Some of the items were tokens of gratitude given to him, and some were awards, but they were all piled together — unorganized — on top of a filing cabinet.

But the first thing that caught your eye when you entered his small office was a large Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary. The giant book of words, whose pages were tattered and creased from constant use, sat to the left of his computer desk. Anytime he was searching for a word, all he had to do was spin around in his office chair and refer to his more comfortable version of Google.

Bill was not much on casual office chit chat or socializing. He was strictly in work mode from the time he came to work at 8:00 in the morning until the time went home at 5:00 in the evening. As matter of fact, I am not so sure the man even took lunch breaks.

However, when you entered his small office to ask him a question or to just say 'hello', he was more than eager to take a break from his work to talk one on one with you in length. And often, time would slip away in my conversations with him.

I was always fascinated with his stories of the early years of small–town journalism and his years of covering local events for a newspaper and a radio station at the same time. Way before the evolution of social media, 24-hour news stations, and the internet, Bill Mardis was traveling the far ends of Pulaski County to inform the local citizens about what was going on in their community.

And through the years, Bill Mardis adapted to the changing world around him and the vast changes from print media to digital online media.

But whether his countless stories were written on a Smith-Corona Sterling typewriter or a MacBook Pro, his words were exact and perfectly placed, while his completed stories were journalistic works of art.

And while Bill Mardis would be the first to admit that 'him and technology didn't always see eye-to-eye', his knowledge and expertise as word scribe was timeless.

Bill Mardis is the epitome of what journalism is and should be.

There will never ever be another journalist like Bill Mardis.

Steve Cornelius is the CJ sports editor and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.