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Karl E. Hales: Many contributed to NSSA success in Salisbury

By Karl Hales

Salisbury has lost a bit of history! The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA, but now National Sports Media Association, NSMA) has moved to Winston-Salem after being founded in Salisbury and providing recognition to sportscasters and sportswriters for 57 years. Many people in our community and beyond worked and played with celebrities in the world of the sports giants and entertainers for over half a century. State winners from all 50 states have made their way to what Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times called a “sleepy little town in North Carolina.” He was not only the state winner from California on multiple occasions, he was the national winner 14 times. He loved Salisbury, as do many people throughout the nation who have come here to be recognized for their accomplishments. Many of us knew them as friends, and they knew us. We will miss them, and they are going to miss us.

Volunteers and hosts from our community rubbed elbows with the likes of Jesse Owens, Bop Hope, Chet Atkins, Phil Harris, Gen. William Westmoreland, Kyle Petty, Flip Wilson, Mikey Mantle, Lynn Swann, Joe Buck and his father Jack, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson, Verne Lundquist, Roscoe Tanner, Terry Bradshaw, Roman Gabriel, Marty Brennaman, Jack Brickhouse, Bob Hammel, Jim Valvano, Woody Durham, Pat Summerall, Jim McKay, John Wooden, Curt Gowdy, Peter Gammons, George Vessey, Dan Jenkins and his daughter Sally, Furman Bisher, Brent Musburger, Kieth Jackson, Mitch Albom, Jim Simpson, Bud Collins, Scott Hamilton, Joe Garagiola, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Andy Griffith and so many more.

Nationally known sportscasters and sportswriters gathered every year to be recognized as the big winners (National Sportscaster of the Year or National Sportswriter of the year) or to be inducted into the NSSA Hall of Fame. We honored over 60 sportscasters and just as many sportswriters. Those honored were people like Damon Runyon, Red Barber, Lindsey Nelson, Chris Schenkel, Bob Costas, Ricky Reilly, Jim Nance, Ernie Harwell, Bob Ryan, Vin Scully, Dick Enberg, Frank Deford, Mel Allen, Will Grimsley and Don Dunphey — just to name a few.

Great names, to be sure, but the work behind the scenes that went on between awards programs to make those three days successful each year was done by our friends and neighbors. Founders, hosts, local board members and committee members made it happen, With apologies  for any omissions, some people stand out as essential to this wonderful program over its 57-year history. Those who have sat at the helm as presidents, executive directors, organizational directors and board members spent countless hours in meetings, work sessions and calls on sponsors. Their work was largely done out of love for NSSA and for little or no money or recognition. Some of these people include Claude Hampton, Barbara Lockert and her daughter Cassandra who poured their hearts and souls into the organization longer than anyone else, but there were others who worked tirelessly when they were involved.

Many thanks go to people like Chip Short, Bob Setzer, Bill Hall, David and Carol Simmons, Dennis and Linda White, Mary Nell and Bob Lynch, Dr. Ed McKenzie, Bill and Patty Mason, Joe and Wilburn Taylor, Boots and John Carter, Eddie and Carol Snow, Ned and Shulley Storey, Mort and Bernice Lerner, Humpy Wheeler, Skeeter Francis, Neal Wilkinson, Hank and Petie Palmer and their daughter Joan, Pam Abernathy, Lib Capitano, Zandra Spencer, Greg Jones, Tip Harrison, Louis Harrison, Don Weinhold and Malcolm Butner. This list is only a sprinkling of the many, many people involved with NSSA.

Volunteers who came to announce or emcee the program also lent their talents to the success of NSSA. Some of these names include Doug Logan (who was given the key to the city for his contributions), Chris Schenkel, Lindsey Nelson, Ray Scott, Curly Neal of the Harlem Globetrotters, Roy Firestone, Dave Diles, Chris Berman of ESPN, Jim Gallagher, Dale Robertson and others.

Every spring since 1960, Salisbury has been the gracious host to all those who have distinguished themselves as writers and casters in the world of sports, including representatives of all 50 states who have found their ways to our beautiful city, but now it’s gone. We loved having you here, and you will all be missed. We still call you our friends, so don’t forget us now that you have been moved.

Dr. Karl Hales is a retired professor of communications and speech at Catawba College and member of the NSSA foundation board.

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