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  • Writer's pictureD. Michael Flanagan


I have this weird thing with history... I absolutely love it. In fact, I love it so much that I'm currently developing a television series titled "Hidden Legacy." If you care to watch the trailer, it's available at You will quickly see my more fanatical side and the passion for all things old, dead, and buried.

Speaking of history, one story in particular, or one individual, who has always fascinated me, is James McClatchy. As a mere teenage, Irish immigrant in the mid-1800's, he left his native Ireland and sailed to the shores of New York. I won't go into great detail here, but at the suggestion of New York Times editor Horace Greeley, young Mr. McClatchy heeded the call to "Go west, young man." After sailing around the tip of South America and up the coast of California in 1849, his ship inevitably sank somewhere off the coast of San Diego, causing him to walk the rest of the way to Sacramento. He would have ridden a horse, but opted to eat it instead as his last means of survival. Somehow...miraculously, the maniac made it.

And that's when all the real trouble began. An enterprising young journalist, he found himself in more than a few bar brawls which landed him in the county jail. It wasn't that he was simply just an angry, young, Irishman (although likely true) but that he believed so passionately for the rights of the common man. Through his journalism, he continued to raise the dust, writing story after story in defense of all those who had also pursued their dreams of striking it rich, stumbling across the open plains in their buckboard wagons and facing all kinds of constant death threats, only to find Sacramento, then a cesspool-of-a-city filled with greed, deception, and a level of corruption that would make our current politicians embarrassed. Despite continued opposition, however, he never gave up.

The result...his little newspaper (The Sacramento Bee) grew into one of the most prosperous media empires our nation has ever known. The McClatchy Company, not the largest of all media companies, but certainly one of the oldest, became known across the country with thriving newspapers in a wide variety of cities...all because this crazy young Irish lad had the guts to write about the things in which he so deeply believed. Little did he know where his words would take him or the lives he would impact, even hundreds of years after he was gone.

This gives me courage. It gives me hope. That the things to which I put my hand, the words I write...when they come from the heart...perhaps some day, like tiny seeds planted in the dirt, will yield a harvest I could never imagine. In one form or another, we all will leave our legacy to those who come after us. In that, let us accept it as a responsibility to strive toward leaving our very best. Perhaps, we may never see the results or reap the rewards of our efforts...but then, the legacy we leave was never meant for us in the first place. Our legacy is for others, and those we will never meet. Our our gift.

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