Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Former T-U Political Writer Drane, 84, Dies

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Former T-U Political Writer Drane, 84, Dies

Article excerpt

Byline: Jessie-Lynne Kerr, Times-Union staff writer

Hank Drane, the retired Florida journalist who coined the term "heifer dust" and whose fictional town of Bull Snort once lent its name to a political forum, died yesterday at his home in Longwood. He was 84 and had been ill with Alzheimer's disease for 12 years.

During his 27 years with The Florida Times-Union, Mr. Drane won numerous journalism awards for his articles. From 1955 until he retired Jan. 1, 1983, he covered every session of the Florida Legislature, all the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate campaigns, the presidential primaries and the national conventions of both parties.

For 10 years in a row, he was honored for outstanding coverage of the Legislature, an award voted in secret ballot by the legislators themselves.

"He was a giant in Florida political journalism, but he was even a better human being than he was a reporter," said former governor and current U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla. "During the days when a young politician and a veteran journalist could be friends, I was pleased to have Hank's friendship, his advice and his example in terms of his standards of hard work and dedication to the truth."

Another former governor, Claude Kirk, said Mr. Drane was "of the old breed of smart reporting. Hank knew what he was looking for in a story. He could really get next to people and find out anything."

John S. Walters, retired executive editor of the Times-Union, said of Mr. Drane: "He really knew the political lay of the land, despite his laid-back, folksy Georgia way of writing. He never turned down an assignment, and he was always working. Hank loved being a country boy, and he always had the right answers."

Tom Slade, Republican national committeeman from Florida and chairman of the Duval County Republican Party, said: "During the years I was in the Legislature, 1962 to 1970, he was the premier political news reporter in Florida. "He had what was exceedingly rare for a serious reporter, a wonderful sense of humor."

Mr. Drane was born in Union Point, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia School of Journalism. He began his 36-year newspaper career with the Baton Rouge, La., Morning Advocate, then moved to the Macon, Ga., News, where in 6 1/2 years he rose to assistant managing editor before moving to Jacksonville in 1955.

Before concentrating on politics, Mr. Drane frequently traveled around Florida and Georgia writing feature stories. In 1964, Mr. Drane spent five months covering the racial unrest in St. Augustine, an assignment that, he later recalled, wasn't without danger.

Once ensconced in Tallahassee, he won numerous awards.

In 1977, the Florida Press Club awarded Mr. Drane its top prize for investigative reporting for a series on 31 North Florida legislators' campaign slush funds. …

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