By John Marcase
For nearly four decades, as technology changed the face of newspapers and media in general, readers of The Town Talk in Alexandria could always count on one thing remaining the same – Bob Tompkins’ byline appearing in print or on their computer screen.
While he isn’t a native of Central Louisiana – he was born and bred in New Orleans and educated at LSU – Tompkins was the definitive voice in Cenla when it came to sports.
Also acclaimed for years as one of the state’s top sports journalists, he officially joins those ranks on Saturday, June 25, when he is inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as a 2016 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.
His career in sports journalism began while he was a student at LSU when he assumed the role of sports editor of the Daily Reveille, the student newspaper. His first job following his graduation from LSU in 1972 led him to Lafourche Parish and the Thibodaux Daily Comet. For the next several years he bounced from paper to paper with short stints at the Monroe Morning World — where he met his wife Janet – then the Shreveport Journal, and the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.
Tompkins finally put down his roots in Central Louisiana at the Town Talk in Alexandria.
“I’ve often been asked why I stayed so long at this paper,” Tompkins wrote in his farewell column after retiring in October 2015. “The short answer is, for the most part, I liked my job here and I grew to love a cadre of special friends around town. It was a great place to raise my children.”
Tompkins was promoted to sports editor at The Town Talk in 1987. He had a knack for hiring non-traditional candidates to fill key roles on his staff, including David West to cover the Northwestern State Demons.
“In 1989, Bob took a chance on hiring a sportswriter whose background was far from conventional in several senses,” said West, who now works in the News Bureau at Northwestern State. “I didn’t have a lot of newspaper experience, but Bob saw something in me. And as someone with a physical disability, he could have easily not hired me. But he did which allowed me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.”