Old pro joins the Courier family

Hello, Pickens County!

I’m Ron Barnett, and I’m the newest contributor to the Courier, Pickens County’s only locally owned newspaper.

Some of you may know me. For one thing, I’ve lived here most of my life and you could have seen me around Clemson, where I grew up and went to school, or run into me at the grocery store in Easley, where I live now.

Or if you’re a local government gadfly, you may have even seen me at a meeting of the Pickens County Council or school board or one of the city councils in the county.

I was a reporter or editor at The Greenville News for 29 years. Until last month. That’s when I entered into my Golden Age, in which I don’t have to get up every morning and work for a living.

So now, I get up in the morning and drink coffee and read the news — pretty much like I used to do — and then I go for a bicycle ride on the Doodle Trail (if the weather is nice) or play one of my guitars, or my mandolin or my banjo or my keyboard, or whatever. Then I check in on my five grandchildren — three of whom live here in Pickens County.

Sounds like I’m an old geezer, doesn’t it? But no, rock and rollers never get old.

So since I have all this freedom to do whatever I want, you may wonder why I’m sitting here writing for the Pickens County Courier! Well, I’ll tell you, when you’ve got printer’s ink in your blood, you just don’t kick the habit that easily.

As it happens, I actually enjoy things like going to city council meetings and learning about what’s going on in our communities — and keeping an eye on the folks who lead our local governments.

So I don’t consider this work (even though they are going to pay me a little bit). I don’t plan to get stressed out about doing this, because, for one thing, the guys who run this newspaper are just too nice to make me feel stressed out.

Right now I’m sitting on my deck, with my cat, Smokey, by my side, typing on my laptop, looking out across the little lake just beyond my backyard. It’s 66 degrees — in February — and life is pretty good. The closest I figure on ever getting to a desk is the conference table at the Pickens County Courier office, which is actually an antique counter rescued from an old auto parts store.

Like, I said, the guys who run this place are really salt of the earth.

This is family-style journalism, plain and simple, accountable to no one but the community it serves, and I’m happy to be able to pitch in just as much as I’m of a mind to.

I know most people don’t pay much attention to bylines in a newspaper, but if you read the Courier, you can’t help but notice that one guy — Jason Evans — writes practically all of the stories. I figure he must be the hardest-working newsman in the county. So I wasn’t sure if there was much left for me to do when I asked publisher Rocky Nimmons if he could use a little contribution from me.

But he and editor Zack Mauldin said they’d be happy for me to write a weekly column (which may or may not be weekly). And since Jason is only one person and can’t be in two places at the same time, we decided it would be good if I could chip in on coverage of Pickens City Council, Liberty City Council and Six Mile Town Council and write some local features.

That may sound like a lot, but I’m just going to take it as it comes and not worry about it one bit.

So if this is the first you’ve ever heard of me, let me tell you a little bit more about myself.

I was born, believe it or not, in Madison, Wis., but conceived in Arkansas, so my mama calls me (and my fraternal twin brother, Paul) Yankee-Rebels. We don’t have much Yankee in us though, because as soon as my dad finished his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, when we were 2 years old, we moved to Clemson, where he took a job in the Poultry Science Department.

So we grew up in Clemson, graduated from Daniel High School and after an eight-year career as a musician, I came back to Clemson, finished college, and eventually became a reporter for The Messenger. After a few years there, I went to the Anderson Independent-Mail, then the Greenville News, where I worked in about a dozen different jobs over nearly three decades, including a stint covering Pickens County, and most recently, as a columnist.

That’s the short version.

So I hope you enjoy reading my stuff. You can bet I’m going to enjoy writing it.

Right now, I think I’m going to take a little nap.

An award-winning newspaperman for more than 30 years, Ron Barnett is the newest member of the Pickens County Courier staff. He can be reached at