Famed Georgia sportswriter Furman Bisher, who covered everything from major golf tournaments to the Triple Crown during a career that spanned six decades, died Sunday of a massive heart attack outside Atlanta. He was 93.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Bisher's death on its website Sunday evening. Former AJC Editor Jim Minter said family members told him that Bisher had planned to watch golf at home on Sunday but complained of feeling ill, at which point his wife Lynda called 911. He died at a nearby hospital.
"He put more quality words on newsprint than any other writer in the last half of the 20th century," Minter said late Sunday, according to the newspaper. "He never wrote a bad column."
On his personal blog, “Bisher Unleashed,” Bisher wrote that he had played golf with Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen, among many others. Covering the Masters in 1954, he watched in awe as amateur Billy Joe Patton “laughed his way” through the course, making a hole-in-one on his way to nearly snatching the Green Jacket from Sam Snead. Patton lost by one stroke, and Bisher later recounted whathe called his favorite golf quote in all his years of writing about the sport: “I could have handled the fame, I could have handled the money,” Patton said. “But I doubt if I could have handled the women.”
Bisher’s many awards and accolades included membership in the International Golf Writers Hall of Fame, the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. His work has been anthologized in Best Sports Stories of the Year 23 times, and he won PGA Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award, the William D. Richardson Award from the Golf Writers Association of America and the Red Smith Award for contributions to journalism.
Bisher retired in 2009 after 59 years at the Georgia newspaper, writing his final column on the same typewriter he used in 1950.
At his retirement, Bisher said: "I just decided that's enough — I had been thinking about it a couple weeks. I wanted to get it done, get it over with, and as far as I'm concerned it's no big deal. I just won't be writing a column."
The North Carolina native wrote hundreds of articles for national magazines including Sports Illustrated and The Saturday Evening Post. He also authored several books, including an autobiography of baseball great Hank Aaron.
Born Nov. 4, 1918 in Denton, N.C., James Furman Bisher began his career in 1938 at The Lumberton Voice in his home state and became an editor at The Charlotte News two years later. In 1949, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson gave Bisher and Sport Magazine his only interview since being ousted from baseball 30 years earlier in the "Black Sox" scandal.
Bisher received numerous awards over his career, including the Red Smith Award for sports journalism and the William D. Richardson Award from the Golf Writers Association of America. Last year he was an inaugural inductee into the Atlanta Press Club's Hall of Fame.
Bisher was a father of three sons, one of whom had died.
After his official retirement, Bisher continued to write occasionally for The Journal-Constitution and to cover golf tournaments. He was looking forward to reporting on the Masters tournament, which he had covered every year since 1950. "Mr. Bisher was as passionate about the AJC in his final days as he ever was," AJC Sports Editor Ray Cox said in a statement. "And he was always a perfect Southern gentleman. He was first and foremost a journalist but one whose ability to write far surpassed the skills of most of us who came into the business hoping to emulate him."