Tommy Tomlinson

Columnist and host of SouthBound


Tommy Tomlinson has written for publications including Esquire, ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Garden & Gun, and many others. He spent 23 years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer, where he was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in commentary. His stories have been chosen twice for the “Best American Sports Writing” series (2012 and 2015) and he also appears in the anthology “America’s Best Newspaper Writing.”

He teaches magazine writing at Wake Forest University and has also taught at the University of Georgia, Queens University of Charlotte and the Poynter Institute. He has been a speaker at workshops and conferences across the country.

His book “The Elephant In the Room,” a memoir about life as an overweight man in a growing America, will be published soon by Simon & Schuster.

He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and was a 2008-09 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte.

On My Mind Column Archives

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New episodes of SouthBound will be published every other week on Wednesday.

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Ways to Connect

You can’t understand the South without trying to understand Charleston, South Carolina.

Six months.

That’s how long it’s been since we all had anything resembling a normal day.

Courtesy Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton, the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter from Charlotte, has spent his career working a fertile patch of rhythm and blues.

In this summer of so many terrible things that have happened on the streets of America, the most disheartening thing, to me, is something that didn’t happen.

The Republican National Convention is finally here in Charlotte, and to be honest, you might not even notice. Instead of a three-ring circus, it has turned out to be more of a flea circus thing.

Photo by Jason Myers

Fawn Weaver is the author of a best-selling book on happy marriages. Her husband is a movie exec. They were happy and comfortable in Los Angeles. But then she read a story about a former slave named Nearest Green, who taught his method of making Tennessee whiskey to a young businessman named Jack Daniel. Weaver longed to know more.

There's a buzz outside our house these days. 

Lately I’ve been thinking about the similarities between the two big stories of 2020 – the pandemic caused by the coronavirus, and the global protests on inequality and policing sparked by the killing of George Floyd.

Sameer A. Khan

Eddie Glaude, the chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton, is the author of a new book called “Begin Again,” about the writer James Baldwin, and how his work reflects on modern race relations in America.

The weirdest sports season of our lifetimes has begun. I’m just not sure how long it’s going to last.

The links to the South’s Confederate past are beginning to come down – some by law, some by force. But this part of the country is still strewn with memorials to the Lost Cause – from monuments in town squares to the names of parks and streets and schools.

Welcome to the laboratory. Our current work is centered on how to educate our schoolchildren in the time of the coronavirus. We’ve got many experiments going on at once.

According to WUNC, 14 Confederate monuments in North Carolina have been taken down – or are in the process of being taken down – since the death of George Floyd on May 25.

Clint Smith grew up in New Orleans until his family had to relocate to Houston in Hurricane Katrina. He has grown up to become one of America’s most powerful young voices, especially when it comes to the value of Black lives.

No matter what topic you can think of, someone, somewhere is an expert on that topic. It turns out that Lee Gray, of UNC Charlotte, is an expert on elevators.

Here’s a useful public service announcement about the coronavirus from the Red Cross: “Wear a mask and save your life! The man or woman or child who will not wear a mask now is a dangerous slacker.”

Harvey Gantt
Courtesy Harvey Gantt

This is a recut version of the very first episode of SouthBound, which we put into the world on Nov. 15, 2017. Our guest for this first episode was Harvey Gantt, a longtime pioneer in civil rights in the Carolinas.

About a year ago, when Charlotte was debating whether to bring the Republican National Convention to town, I wrote that the city should say yes.

ESPN has a tagline it likes to use for its “30 for 30” documentaries and podcasts. The commercials often start like this: “What if I told you ...”

If you know the Atlanta hip-hop duo OutKast – the rappers Big Boi and André 3000 — you might know them from their big pop hits “Hey Ya!” or “The Way You Move.”

Sometimes, when you’re looking for signs and symbols, the gods just drop one on your head.

These last few days, as people have talked about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some of them have brought up the names of so many other black Americans left to die on the streets of this country. But I’ve thought about another name from here in Charlotte: Trystan Terrell.

Marcus King was playing clubs around the Carolinas before he was old enough to drive.

Now, at 24, he leads the Marcus King Band, taking his blend of rock, blues, country and soul all over the world. And he’s got a new solo record called “El Dorado” that was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

Jodie Valade / WFAE

When I talked to Brad Ritter about the Manor, he tried not to get emotional. But sometimes he couldn’t help it.

“What’s been the best part about this job?” I asked him.

There’s a long pause. I thought he might not have heard me.

Carol Montuoro

Connie Montuoro died from the coronavirus on May the 4th. She probably didn’t know why she was sick, or how she ended up at the hospital, or why her family didn’t come to see her anymore. She lived so much of her life in the dark.

U.S. Navy

On Feb. 17, 1864, a torpedo from a Confederate submarine called the H.L. Hunley blew a hole in the side of a Union ship called the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor, becoming the first combat submarine to sink a warship in history. But after the attack, the Hunley disappeared.

A lot of these last two months has felt like time spent underwater. But this is the point where we’re in danger of getting the bends.

What do you miss?

Here’s what I miss:

The TV show “The Good Place” recently wrapped up after four seasons on NBC. “The Good Place” was a unicorn of a TV show – a comedy that explored deep philosophical issues of life and death and what it means to be human.

School is closed for the rest of the school year in North Carolina, and the long phase-out of the stay-at-home orders are going to take us into June or beyond.