John Andrew Prime

NEW! Go here to visit a tribute Web site to my wife, Lila Strain Prime.

NEW! Go here to visit a tribute Web site to an old, dear friend of mine who I just learned died, Jeri Daffinee.

I've been a working stiff at the Gannett daily The Times at Shreveport since August 1978, and have worked as both a reporter and editor in several back-and-forth shiftings. At this time I am a senior reporter, the military specialist, having most recently before that worked as assistant state editor. 

In 1998 and part of 1999, I spent six months compiling data and "crunching" data to provide the bedrock material for a "school report card" project that was selected for the 1999 "Best of Gannett" Division I Outstanding Achievement by an Individual.

We survived the 2000 Census and are dealing with the forces that visited death on our land in September 2001 and threaten us today from the region known as the "cradle of civilization." Since 9-11 I initiated and led a special report on members of our 1/156th Armor Battalion and 256th Brigade Combat Team of the Louisiana Army National Guard, which returned to the state in September 2005 after almost a year's combat in Iraq. Before that, I reported on the sterling work of Bravo Co., 1/23rd Marines, based in Bossier City. In early 2002 I led the reporting and production of a special 12-page section on the 50th anniversary of the B-52 bomber, which has performed so valiantly in actions against our national enemies. The package included interviews with aerodynamicist Bob Withington, legendary test pilot Guy Townsend, "Mr. B-52" Maj. Gen. William Eubank and best-selling author Dale Brown. The project included pioneer work both at my paper and Gannett in the intensive use of digital audio on the Web.

In August 2007, I was one of two journalists selected to accompany crews taking part in an historic recreation of a 1938 flight called the Rex mission. In that, B-17 bombers intercepted the Italian luxury liner Rex hundreds of miles off the U.S. coast, demonstrating that this nation's air power could and would protect it from distant enemies. The Rex Redux mission, as our adventure was called, demonstrated that the B-52 bomber, long known and feared as a weapon of mass and now precision destruction, could also serve as precision intercept and intelligence-gathering platform. I flew on Rex 52, B-52 60-0059 or "Balls 59," with a top-notch crew commanded by Lt. Col. Jim Noetzel, commander of the 96th Bomb Squadron. In this crew photo, I'm the old guy second from the left. You don't see Jim in this photo as he is the one taking it.

In the summer of 2002, my first book was published. "Images of America: Barksdale Air Force Base," a pictorial history of the nation's premier B-52 establishment, was co-written with H.D. "Buck" Rigg and Shawn Bohannon. It is published by Arcadia (www.arcadiapublishing.com) and is available through Amazon.com, through the publisher, at major bookstores or through the authors. (For the same $19.99, we will sign the book, though! In any event, all proceeds benefit the museum.)

Before a general reorganization of the paper in January 1992, I was an entertainment reporter and weekend entertainment section editor, as well as an arts critic and music reviewer.

My earliest reporting was for a number of newspapers that published intermittently in Shreveport in the middle 1970s: The Third Paper (an underground), the Bossier Press, the Valley Voice and the Voice (both published by Buddy Roemer, who would later become a Louisiana governor), the Shreveport Journal and finally, my current paper. I have the 20-year diamond on my company ring and, God willing, will make it to 30.

I have also worked as a Shreveport area stringer for Time Magazine, and have had feature articles published in the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Post, the Dallas Morning News and the Minami Nippon Shimbun (South Japan Daily News) in Kagoshima, Japan.

In 1983, I attended tha National Gathering of Holocaust Survivors to follow the participation there of Survivor friends in Shreveport: Isaac Ain and Rose and Louis Van Thyn.

I am a fourth-generation newsman though, ironically, I didn't know this when I entered into the field.

My grandfather Thomas (T.J.) Prime, after serving as the mayor of Bergenfield, N.J., from 1918-1922, worked for about a dozen years as a police reporter and photographer for the then-Bergen Evening Record. At the same time, his wife and my grandmother, Rita Ogden Prime, worked as the same paper's society columnist. Their oldest son, my uncle Thomas Norton Prime, worked as a reporter for the paper for a few years in the early 1920s, and then began a long and fruitful career in its advertising section, eventually becoming the paper's advertising manager. Another of their sons, my uncle Jim Prime, was part of the management of the Willard Press, which was a part of the firm that issued the Boonville Herald in Oneida County, N.Y.

(An aside: T.J. "Pop Pop" Prime was also a force in the Bergen County Democratic Party apparatus from 1912 until his "retirement" in 1962, and I still have the telegram the Kennedy White House sent him at his going-away dinner. Son Thomas Norton Prime, on the other hand, was a staunch Republican and was for many years a power in that party in Bergen County. I suspect that dinner hour in the Prime household on East Clinton Avenue could become quite lively!)

Getting back to the journalism: My late uncle Joe Seco was for many years a co-owner of the Bergen County Twin-Boro News. And a cousin of my grandmother Rita was Rollo Ogden, from 1922 to 1937 EDITOR of the New York Times!

Being consigned to the newsroom was thus an unavoidable fate.

I have no accomplishments that rank anywhere near the erudite sophistication of my distant cousin Rollo Ogden. My most notable accomplishment -- that word is used with caution -- was to contribute an item on the now-famous tiff between Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker to Rolling Stone magazine. It was brutally edited, but the check was quite nice. Thank you, Mr. Wenner.

I am a fan of the music of Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, and have taken a fair number of folks out to visit his grave, including Robert Plant, Maria Muldaur, Country Joe McDonald and poet Allen Ginsburg. Though my output on Huddie has been limited of late, I am listed on the masthead of the Lead Belly Letter. As noted above, I am also a fan of the music of the Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Pachelbel, Albinoni, an Australian folk band called the Cobbers, and the Grateful Dead. I am not quite what you would call a Dead Head, though you can check out my trade list by clicking here.

I am proud to call Billie Jean Horton, Hank Williams Sr.'s widow, a friend, and am probably the first person to ever have written a word about the now much-wordified Kix Brooks, of Brooks and Dunn fame. (Anyone who wants to see those articles from the early '80s should drop me an e-line.)

I got a hug backstage once from the late punk-rocker Wendy O. Williams, when she was clad only in her famous whipped cream and electrician's tape. And I've shared a Foster's Lager with John Mellencamp backstage at Hirsch Coliseum, back when he still used "Cougar" in his stage name. If that sounds like a schizophrenic musical rap sheet, so be it.

Reading is a major hobby. High on my list are works by Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Harry Turtledove and a Canadian naturalist, Ron Lawrence.

I am a graduate of Shreveport's Jesuit High School, now known as Loyola College Preparatory School and of LSU Shreveport. I also attended Parkway High School in Bossier City from 1964 to 1968 when it was an elementary/middle school, so I know a fair number of people who later graduated there. Among them: Playwright Judi Ann Mason and Jeri Daffinee, now sadly deceased, who was my first girlfriend, in a very innocent way that 30 years later still causes me to lose sight for all the years. (Jeri and I split in 1974, torn apart by a military transfer. I married and am very much in love with my wife, Lila, -- see below -- and my special friend also married, I trust and pray happily. Jeri died in 2000 at age 43, after a valiant fight against cancer, a malady I too have met and so far held at bay. My prayers go out to my friend's husband, whose loss I know is profound.)

Besides reading and writing, my hobbies include travel (when we have the bucks), photography (ditto), genealogy research and the study of certain aspects of U.S. military history.

Civil War spoken here!

I am a member of Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Current projects include a study of the French Prince Camille de Polignac in the service of the Confederacy at the Battle of Mansfield or (in Union talk) Sabine Crossroads in 1864; the editing and publishing of the Civil War diary of Jesuit Union chaplain Peter Tissot; and a history of the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry, also known as the Irish Rifles, a unit that fought at First and Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Chantilly and the Battles of the Seven Days before Richmond. (My great-grandfather Israel Day Prime, son of a pioneer family of Cattaraugus County, New York, was a private in Company I with this regiment and, during a stint as a member of the provost guard unit for Maj. Gen. Hooker in the weeks before the battle of Chancellorsville got to serve as a guard for President Abraham Lincoln.) I am also researching the life and work of the late C.C. Antoine, one of Louisiana's colorful Reconstruction Era politicians. I am proud to say I was recently part of a group effort that placed a new tombstone on Antoine's grave. My latest project is working toward the discovery and possible recovery of four Confederate submarine torpedo boats believed to have been scuttled in Cross Bayou here in Shreveport at the close of the Civil War. I was recently a small part of a survey done on Cross Bayou by esteemed diver Ralph Wilbanks, who discovered the wreck of the CSS Hunley off Charleston, SC, in the summer of 1995. The search was commissioned by Clive Cussler. That spurred a small group of history-minded folks in the Shreveport area, including me, to continue the search and to extend it to neighboring waters.

I have also reported some nationally important news regarding prehistoric discoveries here in North Louisiana in September 1999.

My father was Lt. Col. Stephen Webster Prime, U.S. Air Force, now deceased. I was born in 1956 in the Army Hospital at Landstuhl, Bavaria, Germany, while my family was stationed at Ramstein Air Base. My father, who joined the Army Air Corps in early 1940, was with the 47th Pursuit Squadron at Wheeler Field on Oahu when Japan attacked this country on December 7, 1941. My mother, the late Helen Rosemary Prime, was the proud descendant of Spanish farmers from Santa Maria de Caballar Parish in La Coruna Province, in northwest Spain, and Irish who ventured to this country in the 1850s.

My paternal family, and a good chunk of the maternal side as well, is originally from New York. They started out as Pruyns in the Albany area, then moseyed over to Fonda in Montgomery County where, about 1830, my great-great grandfather David P. Pruyn decided being a Dutchman wasn't the way to go in the "modern era." So he Anglicized the name. It doesn't seem to have worked, though, since he ended up skedaddling to the lovely little town of Ellicottville in Cattaraugus County, where the family lived (at 13 Adams Street, to be precise) from about 1840 to 1949, when the last direct representative of the family there died. There are still a lot of cousins to the Primes living there: associated family names include Vedder, Burke, Ingraham, Mayott, Irish, Wemple and Schermerhorn.

I have lived in Shreveport-Bossier City off and on since 1959, when my father was first stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, home of the Mighty 8th Air Force and the nation's largest strategic bombing entity, the 2nd Bomb Wing. I have been a permanent resident of the region since 1964.

My wife, the former Lila Lisa Strain, is from a pioneer Southern family (that makes me what folks here call a Damned Yankee. A Yankee just comes down here to live -- the Damned Yankees marry the prettiest local women!)

While all my folks were or are from the Nawth, as folks here still say, hers have always been decidedly Southern. She had one direct forebear, William Sherod Liles, who was a sergeant with the Confederate Louisiana Crescent Regiment and who died in the same charge as General Alfred Mouton at the Battle of Mansfield. Another of her ancestors, Robert Wiley Stewart, died on picket duty at Kennesaw Mountain, Ga., in June 1864. He was with the 2nd Arkansas Infantry.

Another of her ancestors was Major John Liles, great-grandfather of the William Sherod Liles above. Major John fought in the Revolutionary War as a South Carolina cavalry company leader and was wounded in hand-to-hand combat with a British officer.

My only counters to that parry are my ancestors Albert Vedder, who was a foot soldier in the Revolution in New York and Nathaniel Ogden, who was quartermaster on George Washington's staff at Valley Forge.

We have two sons. Daniel, the oldest, is a sergeant with the Louisiana Army National Guard. He served 11 months in Iraq, then extended his active duty service to be an observer/controller-trainer (O?CT) at Fort Lewis. Was., and Fort Bliss, Texas. He since has returned home and is attending nursing college.

God bless and protect him and all who toil for our safety and our national endeavors. Sadly, his unit, the 256th Brigade Combat Team, lost 35 soldiers. There were 16 deaths in his battalion, the 1/156th Armor Battalion, now the 2/108th Cavalry.

Youngest son Jeremy graduated with honors from Northwestern State University School of Nursing in Shreveport, which was founded by his great-grandmother, the late Ida Graham Price Strain. (She was a colonel in the Army nurse corps and earned a Bronze Star tending the wounded at Anzio, according to her obituary.) Jeremy now works in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at LSU Hospital in Shreveport.

Some day I hope to live and work in Western New York, to return to my roots and get to know a bunch of cousins I haven't seen in more than 30 years. I would like to settle in the Cattaraugus/Chautauqua Counties or southern Erie County area. If you think you can make an offer that will take the Prime Clan from hither to yon, make my day!


Go to my Caddo Parish Genealogy page

Go to my Bossier Parish Genealogy page