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HIS STARRING ROLE WAS ON PAPER INSTEAD OF STAGE

HIS STARRING ROLE WAS ON PAPER INSTEAD OF STAGE

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This is one in a series of stories about retired employees of the Greensboro News & Record, which this year is marking its centennial.

Robert T. ``Bob' Register thought briefly about a career on the stage, but opted for another role - as a journalist.Acting was an avocation he enjoyed as a college student, and he considered doing it for a living after he graduated from Guilford College in 1941. But his love of words, which all his life had compelled him to read and write, eventually won out.

His journalism career was something he ``sort of drifted into,' says Register, who retired from the Greensboro News & Record in 1985 as assistant managing editor of the afternoon edition.

He didn't settle into journalism until he had had a peek at the possibility of an acting career.

Jobs were scarce when Register finished college. Yet he and a friend, Rupert Wells, who had relatives in Brooklyn, hitch-hiked to New York in search of work.

Wells soon returned home, while Register, still toying with the idea of hitting the stage, was offered a position by a New York theater group that performed on the Catskill Mountains resort circuit.

The group didn't pay its actors. It did provide room and board, which was something to consider in the lean times right after the Depression; but Register wanted a job with a paycheck.

So he went to work in New York with G.P. Putnam Co., the book publishers, as an authors' contact. Among his duties were picking up and delivering manuscripts to authors and delivering mail.

``I soon learned all the subway routes,' Register says. ``I also learned the most economical ways to get around New York.' He made deliveries to several famous writers, among them novelist and playwright Alice Duer Miller.

Register enjoyed his brief stint with Putnam but wanted to get back into the newspaper business. He also wanted to get back to Greensboro, where he was born and reared.

He got a chance to do both when Carl Jeffress, then managing editor of the Greensboro Daily News, wrote to say the newspaper had some openings. Register quickly wrote back to request one of the jobs.

He was hired as a proof reader, which then was a position in the news department; the job later became a part of the printing department.

Register advanced to a job as the night police reporter. The job was ``a good way to start' as a reporter, he says.

Because employees were leaving for military service in World War II, Register got an opportunity to try several jobs at the newspaper. But that didn't last long. In 1942, he too was headed for military service.

He volunteered for a U.S. Army unit composed of Greensboro men. The unit became the 686th Ordinance Ammunition Co., and Register served with it in Morocco and Italy.

Register returned to Greensboro after his discharge in 1945. The newspaper company gave him the choice of working on the Greensboro Daily News or The Greensboro Record. He chose The Record, the afternoon paper, and spent most of his career there.

He first was a reporter, writing about politics and government, and later had a series of jobs that helped establish his reputation as an outstanding editor - assistant city editor, city editor, associate editor of the editorial page, and assistant managing editor in charge of the copy desk.

He covered the 1963 General Assembly in Raleigh and the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.

He won several awards for his editorial writing, and his editorials were included in two entries that won national Roy Howard awards for The Record.

Register's love of writing, his expertise in grammar and sentence construction, and his knowledge of his native Greensboro have made him a valuable friend to young and veteran journalists.

His skills as a wordsmith even brought reporters from the ``competing' Greensboro Daily News strolling into The Record newsroom to ask his advice about writing style or grammar.

Although Register doesn't claim to be an authority on any of those things, he does admit he has loved words and language since he was very young.

``I was a voracious reader,' he says. ``I read everything I could get my hands on.' (He still does.)

He did well at Bessemer High School, especially in English. In those days, schools had only 11 grades. Register finished the 11 years of work in 10 years.

When he graduated from high school in 1937, the Depression was still raging.

``If I could have found a job, I might have ended up as a doffer in a mill or as something similar to that,' he says. ``I would have taken anything to bring in a little money.'

Bessemer High School principal W.E. Younts saved Register from what could have been a life in the textile mill. The principal took him to Guilford College, which gave Register a partial scholarship.

During Register's sophomore year he was made the college's one-person news bureau, and he was editor of the student newspaper. He also got a job as a ``stringer,' or correspondent, for the Greensboro Daily News.

He was setting the stage for a 44-year career that involved the dramas of real life.

Does he ever think acting should have been his profession? ``I never look back over my shoulder,' he says.

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