But of all people Walburn has met and the places he’s gone, he told Seven Hills Rotarians Tuesday during their weekly meeting about some of his favorites. Among the names he mentioned were Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron and his longtime friend Lewis Grizzard.
Before the lunch meeting was over, he had members laughing at his stories, like when he interviewed Dolly Parton.
“I saw Dolly once without her wig on,” Walburn said. “And she told me one time it didn’t bother her that people characterized her as a dumb blonde. She said ‘I know I’m not dumb and I know I’m not blonde’.”
Walburn also talked about his friendship with writer Pat Conroy, who he has also had the occasion to edit his writing.
“I can tell you that he’s helped turn a lot of editors 50 shades of gray,” Walburn said. “And he had some great opening lines.”
But of all the stories he told to Rotarians about his past exploits, interviews and stories, Walburn said he felt that his time with Hank Aaron was the most memorable.
He said during his time with the Atlanta Braves from 1966 to 1972 as Public Relations Director, he had the opportunity to get to know the ballplayer well.
And throughout his historic season of breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, he said he never got to know a better man despite the constant hate mail and death threats he received that year.
“He was the shyest superstar I’ve ever met,” Walburn said. “All he would ever do to acknowledge the applause of his fans was a quick tip of the hat.”
These days, Walburn spends his time in Rome and works on his column.
He said that coming back into writing was “like being unembalmed.” He said he was asked recently if he was enjoying “writing anything that occurs to you.”
“It’s fun, but the occurring is hell,” Walburn said.
Walburn’s column is available in Saturday’s edition of the Rome News-Tribune.