The has been a rough year for the Rome Area Writers. On Wednesday, the club announced the next edition of Lavender Mountain Anthology would be in memory/honor of Mike Ragland, the author and retired lawman who passed away earlier this year, just after doing something he loved — selling and signing books at a Rockmart festival.
Now comes word that J. Bryant Steele, one of the more gifted news writers in North Georgia as well as one of the more prolific, has died. He was found Wednesday with his death attributed to an internal hemorrhage. He had been coping with cancer and other health issues for several years.
It was a comment on Ragland’s passing that led to our last conversation with Steele, probably through email, in March. Identifying himself as past president and active member of the Rome Area Writers, Steele said of his colleague: “Mike, a past president of Rome Area Writers, was active in the group for years and will be missed.” Our one-time rival in breaking local business stories, Steele shared a little insight on what brought him to Rome more than a decade ago following his exit from the Rome News-Tribune. “I was hired to close you down,” he said, quickly turning the conversation to potential future ventures.
Steele began writing for the RNT following a storied career mostly in metro Atlanta. The newspaper posted a warm remembrance on his passing; you can read it here. In that article, current Executive Editor John Bailey writes:
“I’d see him around town and we’d talk whenever we ran into each other. I learned a lot about writing — especially narrative writing — in his time here at the newspaper, and always appreciated his ability to not only practice his craft but also to teach his craft and pass it along.”
Since leaving the newspaper, Steele was active in local writing circles including his regular column in V3. You can read some of his work in the magazine’s archive. His colleagues at V3 offered these words:
“We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of J. Bryant Steele. His Cents & Sensibility column was published in V3 Magazine from May 2010 through April 2018, focusing on hot-button topics surrounding politics, business and modern culture.
“He was a talented and fearless writer, who delivered his opinions through his life experiences. Those who agreed and disagreed with him took the time to read what he had to say, and over the years, we regularly received praise or disdain from both parties in their respective reactions to his columns. The most important fact to note is that he was able to reach others through the written word, and he was one of the best to ever grace the pages of our magazine.
“The thoughts and prayers of everyone here at V3 are with his family during this time of grieving and loss.”
In one of his final columns, from March 2018, Steele wrote about his diagnosis of prostate cancer. It came amid treatment for intense leg and spine pain. He closed the piece with a quote from Paul Simon’s The Boxer. It read, “But the fighter still remains.”
Writing was his passion and Steele kept busy with the Rome Area Writers. He frequently called or emailed with updates on the group’s meetings and seminars, and also would talk about current events including media ups and downs. He likewise found time to appear in a movie, playing a bar patron in the film Nora Noir from 2016. It earned him recognition in one of the industry bibles, IMDB.
Even following a particularly nasty health crisis a few months back, Steele kept his sarcastic wit as rumors circulated of his passing. “Not yet,” he said was half a laugh. We wish that were the case today.
James “Bryant” Steele Jr., age 67, of Rome, Ga., passed away Wednesday, June 12, 2019.
Bryant was born on April 3, 1952, a son of the late James Bryant Steele Sr. and Mary Elizabeth Christian Steele. He went to work at the Rome News-Tribune in December of 2007 as the business editor but began his journalism career as the editor of the University of Georgia’s Red & Black newspaper. He also worked at the Augusta Chronicle and The Macon Telegraph.
Bryant’s career then moved on to work for AT&T and was a media spokesman for the company when a bomb went off in the AT&T Pavilion at Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics. In the days following, Bryant became the point person for much of the information disseminated to the media. Also, in the wake of the bombing, he arranged interviews for the security guard who found the bomb and alerted authorities to its presence.
As a freelancer, before coming to Rome, his work was published in Newsweek, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta magazine, Elysian Fields, The Charlotte Observer, TechLinks, The Brief and Georgia on My Mind. Since leaving the Rome News-Tribune, he wrote a Cents & Sensibility column in V3 Magazine from May 2010 through April of 2018, focusing on hot-button topics surrounding politics, business and modern culture.
Bryant is survived by a daughter and son-in-law, Katy and Ean Brandon of St. George, Utah; son and daughter-in-law, Lt. Jackson Steele (U.S. Army) and wife Briana Steele (RN), of Fort Knox, Ky.; one brother and sister-in-law, Gary and Missy Steele of Covington, Ga.
A Celebration of Life for Bryant will be held on Thursday afternoon, June 20, 2019 at 1 p.m. at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church with Rev. John Herring, Rector, officiating. Inurnment will follow in the Cremation Garden.
Salmon Funeral Home.