Community News

Don ‘Ramblin’ Rhodes, longtime columnist and entertainment writer, has died

(Updated at 5:10 p.m. Monday, June 12 to add funeral details)

The news broke Saturday, June 10, in a Facebook group of former employees of The Augusta Chronicle.

Don Rhodes died on Friday, June 9. He was 77.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 24, at the Jesse C. Lynch Memorial American Legion Post No. 71, at 333 E. Spring Grove Ave., North Augusta. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m. June 24. Burial will be at Bellevue Memorial Gardens, Grovetown.

Rhodes had spent 56 years with Morris Communications. His Morris email signature listed his titles of “Ramblin’ Rhodes, music columnist; publications editor for Morris Communications and publications manager for The Augusta Futurity.”

 The Gainesville, Texas native wrote his first byline article in 1963 with the Chamblee High School newspaper in Chamblee, Ga., and he wrote for two weeklies in Decatur, Ga., before he joined the Savannah Evening Press in March 1967 as the police beat reporter. He started his Ramblin’ Roads column in 1970.

Don Rhodes with Barbara Mandrell in 1983. Photo courtesy Linda Humphreys

According to a 2010 column in The Augusta Chronicle, marking his 47th anniversary with Morris Communications, Rhodes wrote “that summer of 1967 I also met Grand Ole Opry comedienne Minnie Pearl, who had bought her first costume in Aiken. She was appearing at the old Savannah City Auditorium with star Sonny James. I did a story about her, and we became lifelong friends.”

He spent a year in the Army in Vietnam. While there, Minnie Pearl sent him a subscription to Music City News and an autographed photo. Other GIs had pinups of Raquel Welch, and Rhodes had one of Minnie Pearl.

He wrote a story about her and their friendship and said that it sparked his Ramblin’ Rhodes weekly country music column.  He began writing it on Halloween 1970. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020.

He worked for The Augusta Chronicle and Augusta Herald from 1971 to 1993 covering politics and entertainment.

“Don was one of the first people I met when I joined the Herald in 1982. He was a great mentor and loyal friend who will be missed by many,” Robbie Pavey, who retired from The Augusta Chronicle having served in many capacities including as its Columbia County Bureau chief, commented in the private Facebook group for former Chronicle employees.

Barry Paschal, who was the publisher of The Columbia County News-Times, also called Rhodes a mentor.

“When I first came to the Augusta Herald, my desk was between him and Margaret Twiggs. I learned more from that seat than in any college class,” he wrote.

To which Pavey responded,  “I can remember sitting across as well – he knew everyone in Nashville – when he was talking to Roy Acuff once, I thought he was joking. Minnie Pearl used to call him all the time too.”

While he knew many famous people, Rhodes said he liked to champion the unknown, and he received some criticism on it.

Read More: Augusta Good News publisher pays tribute to Ramblin’s Roads columnist

From left, Don Rhodes, Kevin Grogan, Dennis Sodomka and Mary Frances Hendrix, at the 2017 Greater Augusta Arts Council awards ceremony. Photo courtesy Mary Frances Hendrix.

In a January email to Charmain Brackett, publisher of Augusta Good News, Rhodes wrote “One time, someone wrote a letter to the editor complaining that I wrote about so many unknown singers in my music column.  Well, they were totally correct. But I also point that almost no one in the CSRA had ever heard about Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Marty Stuart, Joe Diffie, The Judds, Alabama, etc. until I wrote about them!”

In 1993, he transferred to the communications department at Morris Communications and left a big pair of shoes to fill, according to others who would later write entertainment at the Chronicle.

“It didn’t matter how long I had been at the paper, I always felt like I was sitting at Don’s desk,” Steven Uhles, former entertainment writer and columnist at The Augusta Chronicle, wrote in the private Facebook group. “I was proud to do it. I, like so many, will miss him.”

Mary Frances Hendrix worked with Rhodes for more than a decade as features editor.

“Don always had a smile on his face and was honestly happy to see every single person he encountered,” she said. “He knew absolutely everyone who was anyone in the music industry. Mention a name to him and he had a great firsthand story to tell. He loved sharing those stories in his Ramblin’ Rhodes column.”

When COVID shut down entertainment in March 2020 and The Augusta Chronicle stopped publishing its weekly Applause section not long thereafter, the column moved to Augusta Magazine. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in October 2020.

In January 2023, he started writing a column at Augusta Good News which played on his Ramblin’ Rhodes moniker. He called it Ramblin’s Roads and requested a byline of Don “Ramblin’” Rhodes.

He turned in his last column on June 6. It was about the 1987 Tina Turner concert at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center. It ran June 7. Read it here.

Rhodes also wrote several books including ones on James Brown and Ty Cobb and won multiple awards for his journalism.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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