Remembering Jim Dunaway: a Digital Wake, complied from Walt Murphy's News and Results Service and other sources

James Dunaway, 2011, photo by

The following is a compilation of thoughts, stories and links to tributes to Jim Dunaway. Thanks to Walt Murphy of Walt Murphy News Service, the IAAF, USATF, Track & Field News, TAFWA and the various writers who contributed their thoughts on James Dunaway and his life. 
Walt Murphy's News and Results Service  ([email protected]), used with permission, plus notes from RunBlogRun Facebook and

Remembering Jim Dunaway

As you'll see when you read the following testimonials from some of the most influential people in the sport, Jim Dunaway, who passed away on Sunday night, March 15, 2015, at the age of 87, was more than a Hall-of-Fame journalist--he was a good friend, a mentor, and a tireless protector of all that was good about the sport of track and field.

The IAAF described Dunaway as "a doyen of athletics journalism" and there is not a more appropriate phrase to describe him. He will be honored this year at the Penn Relays and Nike Prefontaine Classic, and a press row seat will be left open in his memory at the 2015 USATF Outdoor Championships.

IAAF Obituary

   (Jim covered every Olympics from 1956 to 2008. An article he wrote about his trip to Melbourne in '56 will be sent in a separate e-mail.)

(L-R)Dick Patrick, Jim Dunaway, Larry Rawson, WaltMurphy
Here are just a few samples of my own fond memories of Jim:

   This was actually before I got involved in the sport, but Jim was instrumental in getting officials at Madison Square Garden to release place times in all of the running events. Previously, only the winning time was published.

    Some of you will remember Delano Meriwether, the sprinting M.D. from the D.C. area. After winning the 100-yard dash at the 1970 National Junior Championships(when it had a different meaning than the current age-based Juniors) in Wantagh, Long Island, he was asked during a post-race interview about his training methods.  He said that he had gotten help from a how-to book publshed by Sports Illustrated. Dunaway, one of a handful of reporters on hand for the event, said with a smile, "I wrote that book!" 
  That same year, Jim got me my first TV job with ABC, which was  to operate the bulky timing device that relayed the finish time to the screen. He would become a great supporter as I became more involved with the TV end of the sport over the years. Jim was also responsible for my participation in one of the great "freebies" of all time, an all-expenses paid trip to the inaugural World Junior Championships in Athens, Greece, in 1986. Just another example of Jim looking out for his friends.

   Jim was inducted into the National T&F Hall of Fame in 2010 and would be a unanimous choice for the "Father's Hall-of-Fame" if one existed. His son David was born with hydrocephalus, a condition that affects the brain and requires those afflicted to receive special care. While still living in New Jersey, Jim would bring David to track meets in the Metropolitan area, allowing many of us to get to know his son. 

  As David got older,  he moved with his father to Austin, Texas, where he could live in a facility that could provide better living conditions for him. A yearly highlight that will be missed is the Christmas card that Jim would send out, usually with a holiday-themed picture of David on the front and a humorous (and touching) transcript of a conversation between father-and-son on the inside.
  As photographer Victah Sailer said, "He loved his son so so much. He had OUR passion for our sport but it was so small compared to his love for David. That impressed me so much".

  Stan Huntsman, another Hall-of-Famer, and his wife Sylvia were Jim's good friends in Austin and Sylvia visited him many times these last few weeks as his condition fluctuated between hopeful and dire. 
Another regular visitor was Chris Kuykendall, who kept Jim up-to-date on the latest happenings in the sport, both on and off the track. 

   I had hoped to visit Jim when I traveled to Austin next week for the Texas Relays, but I can imagine him saying, "Sorry, Walter, I can't wait that long". That's OK, Jim-considering the way things were going, I'd rather see you go sooner than later. 
Walt Murphy

(this is an exchange of responses from a small circle of friends after they learned of Jim's passing)

Frank Litsky (Formerly NY Times)

Jim Dunaway was a one-of a-kind gem. He kept his chin up all his adult life despite the dirty tricks life played on him. He loved track and field so much that he abandoned a lucrative business career to watch meets and pass along his wisdom to readers everywhere. For so many years, New York Times readers benefited from that wisdom, notably when he detected the brazen misconduct by Russian on-the-track officials during the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He was my right hand for years at the Penn Relays and, before Walt Murphy's reign, with the New York Track Writers Association at a time when track and field meant something to newspapers.

He was humble to a fault. The day he was told he had been elected to the National Track Hall of Fame, he was almost in tears because he doubted he was worthy of such an honor and wondered why it had been bestowed on him. He never realized how important he was to the sport and how much he had contributed to it, especially to those of us who did what he did, but not nearly as well. Happily, we realized his greatness. There was only one Jim Dunaway in our lives. Thank God we had him. 

Dick Patrick  (Formerly USA Today)

To all of you Dunaway fans: After leaving home early this morning and not returning until an hour ago, I logged onto my email and have since been channeling my inner James O. I can just hear Jim, "Figures you'd be the last to know. You need to check in with your sources constantly. Every damn day."

The first time I met Jim was in the fall of '87  -- that' s 1987 and not 1887 -- at a function preceding the New York City Marathon. When I mentioned my name, he replied, "Oh, you're the new guy at USA Today who' s been writing about our sport."

He followed that convivial intro with increasingly intensive rounds of questioning. Evidently I convinced him that I was a long-time follower of the sport with sincere interest in it, though I had little experience of covering athletics at the highest level. Thus began a 28-year relationship that went beyond him mentoring me.

Not only did he edit me more intensely than anyone at USA Today, he aided me through my first experiences at World Championships and Olympics. He saved my sorry butt many times with his expertise at major meets and provided me with many freelance opportunities as well as advice for life in general. It was almost like having a third parent.

  I remember being at a major meet at the University of Texas, probably an NCAA Championship, in the 1990s, and having a riveting conversation with Jim and then-UT assistant Dan Pfaff. 
Jim was at his outraged best, though I don't remember the topic. He stalked off, telling Dan and me that he was chasing a major story. 

Pfaff: "That guy has more piss and vinegar than guys half his age. I hope I have that passion at his age."

Me: "I wish I had that much piss and vinegar now."

Think of the length of his career. 

His first major assignment was the 1956 Olympics when he mailed some dispatches back to the U.S. He was writing on instantaneous deadlines for websites in the 2000s.

Think of the depth of his career. 

He dug out the story of the Russians cheating at the 1980 Olympics. The US boycotted but Jim was devoted to seeing cheating in the sport he loved being exposed.

Think of his selflessness. 

Good Lord, how many people did he mentor? Look at all the wonderful people on this email thread whom he helped. There aren't a lot of journalists who cover the sport. Nobody covered it with more passion than Jim, who managed to be both competitive and helpful simultaneously.

The man loved the sport, excellent journalism and his son, David, while also fashioning an impressive business career. We need to name a track journalism award for him so we can keep his memory alive. 

But I can't think of details now. I'm grieving too much.

Marc Bloom (Author, NY Times Contributor)  #1

A very sad day indeed. Jim, who I believe was 86 (he was 87-WM), was a wonderful, giving mentor of mine in the early days, and a mentor to many others including Peter Diamond. I'd spoken with Jim periodically in recent months, most recently some weeks ago. He seemed quite deflated. Hopefully he had some peace knowing how much his friends and colleagues cared about him, and most especially that he had done all he could to assure that David would be taken care of. I hope that we as a track group, TAFWA, etc., find a way to properly salute and remember Jim.  (Already in the works-WM)

Marc Bloom #2

To add to my earlier, brief comment to what has become quite a
beautiful and moving collection of eulogies. Wouldn't be nice if all of this found its way onto the T&FN website. I didn't see anything about Jim on the site.

  My friendship with Jim spanned 50 years. I met Jim at the 1964 Penn Relays when I was a 17-year-old high school senior. I walked up to the press box flashing my new T&FN "correspondents" ID, assuming that was my entrée into every meet including the Olympics. The yellow-jacketed security guards told me to beat
it. When I protested, Jim heard the ruckus and told them, "He's with me." Since I practically worshipped the T&FN masthead, especially this guy who was the Eastern Editor, to meet Jim in that way was like meeting Paul McCartney. Jim immediately went down a list of everything I needed to do to learn about track writing. 

First: come to the NYC Track Writers luncheon meetings at Mamma
Leone's--which, in that era of track's heyday, were held (and well attended) in spring as well as winter. I did. Jim introduced me to Jesse Abramson and everyone else. I saw my first press conference in action. That was my Woodward-and-Bernstein moment.
Jim didn't stop there. He started to get me gofer gigs. Jim did the TV coverage stats then, and one job I can recall in the mid-60s at a Garden indoor meet was starting the clock that showed each event's
running time on your TV screen. Little did I know that during the telecast I would be sitting in the announcing booth next to the two commentators who happened to be... Howard Cosell and O.J. Simpson. (I actually got paid for that.)

Another gig courtesy of Jim: running quotes for reporters at the 1966 AAU championships at Randalls Island. I got to interview all the stars, learning how to question athletes and take notes, and then hurried up to the press box (then on the backstretch side of the track) with my chicken scratch. Abel Kiviat was the press steward. (Honestly, I had no idea who he was except that he "used
to run.") I would take my quotes and recite them individually to the reporters as teletype operators rattled away on their machines.

Do you think I wanted to be a track writer after that?

Mary Wittenberg(President/CEO NYRR)

And, here I was so flattered that Jim took time to call me and critique me on my various speaking engagements. 

Frank(Litsky), after your birthday party a few years ago, Jim called me to say he liked the beginning of my toast to you but felt I missed an opportunity to punch the close. He was right. 

Got to love that - who else takes the time - or has the fortitude to talk straight with us like that?

Peter(Gambaccini), I am only sorry that despite Jim's advice, my speaking hasn't soared to the heights of your writing 

Most of all, I respect how much Jim loved and respected his fellow long time writers and followers of the sport.

I will miss him as will our team here at NYRR. 

Peter Diamond  (Senior Vice President, Programming, NBC Olympics)

Jim was a great guy, a great father, and a mentor-sometimes stern-to all of us...he knew the sport and cared so deeply about it...he also cared deeply about all his friends...

Peter Gambaccini(

Jim, for reasons that were generous, flattering, and a little mysterious, took a huge interest in me and my career and called me regularly to see how I was weathering the changes the profession is enduring. His concern was genuine and humane and meant an enormous amount to me. He would say to me, almost every time he called, "I care about you." It always disarmed me; that's not the kind of thing we writers tend to say to each other. The crusty guy had a warm heart and a giving soul. I already miss him. 

He could be a caustic and tough critic, of course, refreshingly so. So when my New York City Marathon "coffee table" book came out and he called and complimented it rather lavishly and glowingly (it did have lovely pictures), I said to him, "Jim, this is the praise that means more to me than anything." 

And it was. 

Tracy Sundlun(Senior VP-Competitor Group, Inc.)

While all of you can write so well, and so eloquently express your experiences with Jim and your sadness upon his passing; I am just sitting here miserable about the death of such an important person in and to a sport I so love ... and who I called a friend ... and the fact that I never said good-bye or told him recently that I loved him and appreciated him and admired him ... and that I am going to miss him ... and that I have tears in my eyes and my heart is in my throat ... and that I will never forget him.

Rest In Peace, my friend ...

Larry Eder(, Publishing Director Fortius Media Group , LLC.)

My son, Adam, first met James Dunaway at the 2004 Olympic Games. It was late after a session, and we headed out for cocktails and dinner. As the evening wore on into morning, and the cocktails and dinner ended, the stories continued. Adam was mesmerized. 

For nearly the decade after that, Adam and his video team would join me for dinner with James around NYC, or Austin. 

Many will recall that James worked for Ted Bates, Advertising, one of the true iconic agencies. 

For me, though, the love and affection he had for his son, David, and his concern on what would happen to David after James died, was always top in my mind. It was James who reminded me of a 1960 Olympic event (this was in late January/early February 2015), as if it were yesterday. 

James helped me with my writing for years. His best advice: "You write best when you don't pretend to be a writer." He also scolded me about respecting writers and the profession. We had some heated discussions, and then, we would figure things out. I always learnt from James. He told me that I should aspire to be a publisher like George Hirsch (a goal of mine, still), whom he respected from his time writing for RW. 

James Dunaway is a man of some complication, and it was in that complication that I found his humanity: his affection for his son, David, his pride in 
Walt Murphy, Marc Bloom and the countless ones he mentored. His castigation of some was another sign of his affection.
Watching a track meet with James was an experience. A writer, trying to impress Dunaway, once was sitting by James and I, and interjecting commentary while Dunaway and I were trying to watch and observe the meet. James turned around, before I could warn the writer and let loose a line of wonderfully colorful and creative obscenities. 

The gist of the matter was that we were trying to watch the damn track meet and stop the unwanted or unneeded, in Dunaway's mind, commentary. Smiles were seen up and down the media row, and the young writer was silenced. James was quite nice to the young perpetrator in subsequent meetings, probably censoring himself in future conversations.
James last edited our XC 2013-2014 issue in October 2014. His notes, his comments, were quite amusing as he was having issues with another computer. I was grateful for his time, his mentoring, but most of all, our conversations. 

That James Dunaway was a member of the USATF Hall of Fame was some mystery to him. It was a genuine mystery, because he never knew who nominated him. His speech was short, sweet and perfect Dunaway. A mantra for many who had been advised by James: "never say with three words what one can say with one word." 

Merrell Noden(Formerly Sports Illustrated)

Like everyone else who's commented here, I know I will miss his monthly calls to discuss grammar, track politics, and the correct way to spell "impostor." 

I was thinking about Jim yesterday (March 15) while contemplating the whole question of whether Grant Fisher deserved a DQ(at the New Balance Nationals). It reminded me of a piece of Solomonic wisdom Dunaway had given me following the 1992 Olympic 10,000 meter final. I can't recall exactly what made the finish between Skah and [maybe] Hamid Boutayeb controversial, but I remember admiring Dunaway's logic in resolving it: Both men, he said, clearly were willing to let the race come down to a final sprint and once the sprint had begun, it was clear that Skah was the faster of the two. 

That may not have been strictly the way the rules have it, but I thought Dunaway's logic was impeccable.

He clearly cared deeply about a number of things: his son, track and field, and writing well. I'm sure I'm going to miss him, crusty old cuss that he was. 

Tom Fleming (NYC Marathon winner) 

Jim was the best story teller...I was so luck to have Jim stop by the Running Room in Bloomfield, NY on a Friday night and hear the stories of the 1956 Games in Australia and secrets of "the rich & fast" in Europe. T&F was his passion...His love was athletics...and the athletes! 

Barbara Huebner (Sports Journalist)

Jim was the kind of good guy who never wanted you to know what a good guy he really was. RIP, my friend. 

Elliott Denman (Sports Journalist, Olympian) 

Hi All:

Jim Dunaway's epic travels to the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and the 1980 Moscow Games are  already well chronicled...

But ranking right up there with any of Jim's expeditions was his 2010 auto journey, covering much of North  America, visiting with his legion of track friends all over the continent, and wending as far as  Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada for the World Juniors.

When Jim finally got back to Austin, he got the very good news that he'd been elected to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.

The other Class of 2010 inductees were Jearl Miles Clark, Dyrol Burleson, and the late Roy Cochran and Ralph Craig.  A few hours before those 2010 Hall of Fame Ceremonies, in Virginia Beach, Va., 
I told Jim that the other four were now in very fine company.  That elicited the mildest of smiles from the man who'd spent a lifetime chronicling the feats of our sport's fastest and finest.

Earlier, Jim had been gracious enough to share details of that 2010 journey with me, and so I got to be the great chronicler's own chronicler.   I got it all together, sent it off to Mr. Larry Eder,  and it soon appeared on Larry's  I never did get words of approval from Jim - or the opposite.  So presumably, I got all those names, dates and locales right, no easy feat.  No doubt about it, Jim Dunaway would have been sure to set me straight on any errant factoid.  Subject to ratification, I knew I'd done well for the man who'd done so well for his sport and its citizenry.  

Frank Gagliano

I am so sorry!!!! Great man. Loved the sport of track and field. He will be missed, 


Mark Foyer (Sports Journalist)

For those who covered and wrote about track and field at the national and international level, some sad news from Larry Eder. James Dunaway passed away on March 15, 2015. I was just thinking of him a few months ago. He was a true gentleman. 

Robert Sevene (Coach) 

This man was the real deal when it came to reporting Track and Field. It makes me reflect back on Joe Concannon and the Boston Globe. Giants in the field of road racing and track and field.  

Troy James 

I was a greenhorn when I got to meet the greats like Jim, J. Fred Duckett, Bob Hersh, Ed Gordon, Jon Hendershott, Gene Cherry and others in those press boxes. I was doing freelance for TFNews, RW and RT. 

In 2006, I tried to launch my own sports mag. Jim was my first call. 

Brian Brase 

I was lucky enough to get an earful from Jim. 

Steve Williams (Olympian)

Damn...known him forever a part of TF always there for the interview...fair in his is missing one of it's top story telling stars. Yes, Dunaway at every level of track meet...age group: HS..x country at Van Courtlandt Park...two kids racing in the street..he was there with his pen and pad.

Sue Humphrey (coach)

His love for track & field was fantastic. He'd come to all comers meets to look for a story! He'll be missed. 

Shoe Mann (Cregg Weinmann, RN Footwear reviewer)

He was a daunting presence, a stickler for what was a best for the sport, and unafraid to let others know his views. That is what I will miss in his absence. 

Bob Ramsak (Piran Cafe)

I just heard the news that James Dunaway passed away on Sunday night. I'll always consider him to be one of my greatest mentors-as well as a good friend.

For nearly six decades, Jim was one of the most influential writers on international athletics, or track and field. A regular correspondent for dozens of newspapers and publications, including the New York Times, he continued to work until quite recently. He was 87. 

Jim was gracious and helpful to a fault when I begen to focus my reporting career on track and field. It felt a little strange, less than half a decade later, when I would work as his editor, hading him assignments. Well after I shifted my primary professional focus away from sport, we remained in touch. 

Photo by Bob Ramsak

This is Jim at his 80th birthday party which we celebrated in Beijing on the eve of the 2008 Olymics. It was the 14th straight summer Games he'd covered, a streak that began in 1956 in Melbourne. He enjoyed telling stories of his time aboard the very slow boat he took to get there, part of a journey that went around the world. And of his hotel room in Moscow being searched regularly during the boycotted 1980 Games where he was one of only about a dozen Americans covering the event. 

Jim had lots of stories. 

We talked as much about athletics as we did about travel and jazz. And wine, too. I'm feeling profoundly saddened by his passing but extremely grateful and humbled that our respective roads in life crossed. 

Jim, you will be missed. 

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