Welsh remembered as family man, newspaper man

Jim Welsh with his son, Jason and grandsons Mickey and Pablo.
Jim Welsh with his son, Jason and grandsons Mickey and Pablo.

Jim Welsh once roved the streets of Bay St. Louis in search of an angry camel.

The long-necked mammal was gentle, its owner had said, but kept escaping its enclosure. Police believed otherwise, pointing to reports the creature had attacked four people. They'd used a stun gun on it and Welsh was on the hunt to find it.

For the seasoned newspaper man, it was just another day on the job.

Welsh died April 15. He was 69.

He went by James, J.R. and Jim, but most who knew him called him friend.

Dwayne Bremer met Welsh when they worked at competing newspapers. Welsh was at the Sun Herald and Bremer reported for the Sea Coast Echo. Years later, Welsh would join the staff of the Echo.

Even though they worked for different bosses in a job that often called for scooping the competition, Welsh would often offer advice to the rookie reporter. "He was my mentor before he ever started working with me," Bremer said. "He helped me become the reporter I am today."

Bremer was at the wheel the night in 2011 when the two went looking for the rogue camel.

Journalist and mentor

It's just one of many stories Bremer remembers about Welsh.

He recalls another story Welsh shared with him that happened long before the two met. Welsh was at the New Orleans Times-Picayune at the time. Bremer said Welsh would often file his stories, then wait until the paper rolled off the press so he could see his byline in print. "He'd smell the ink on the paper. He said there was nothing like it," Bremer said.

Welsh was much more than a co-worker to Bremer. He was a father figure and Bremer wanted to make him proud. "A man like him, when he gave me praise, it made me feel like a million bucks," he said.

Welsh retired around 2013, but the buddies would get together at Welsh's Bay St. Louis home. They continued their newsroom chats on Welsh's front porch, washing down politics and history with sweet tea.

"I'll miss him and I'll never forget him," Bremer said.

Newspapers a family affair

Welsh started his career in newspapers in the '70s, writing for a small newspaper in Florida. A native of Mobile, he worked as a reporter, editor and columnist for daily newspapers in Florida, Texas, Southern California, Louisiana and Mississippi.

As an editor, he and his teams at both the Times-Picayune and the Orange County (California) Register won Pulitzer Prizes for reporting.

Education was important, and Welsh's was extensive. He was a graduate fellow of the Institute of Politics at Loyola University New Orleans and held a bachelor of science degree in business administration as well as a master's in Christian counseling. He was an ordained chaplain and was completing classes online to earn a doctorate in theology.

After retiring from newspapers, he devoted his time to writing fiction. He published a novel, "The Letter Writer," and a collection of short stories called "All You Need of Me."

Son Jason Welsh remembers the newsroom as a home away from home. Both his parents were reporters, so he'd often be dropped off at their work rather than go to a baby-sitter.

"I loved the smell of the press room and the dark room," he said.

He remembers sneaking into the darkroom when he was 5 or 6 years old and opening all the drawers, exposing the paper to the light.

Jason Welsh said his father taught him a strong work ethic and the value of staying busy. "If he was not working full time somewhere, he was doing something," he said. "I don't think he ever intended to retire. That meant slowing down. In his universe, that wasn't an option."

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Hancock; his son and daughter-in-law, Jason and Lillian Welsh; grandsons Mickey and Pablo Welsh; his sister Julia Baker King and nephews Marcus and Byron King.