He was a longtime sports writer — first for the Times News and then TriCitiesSports.com — until his final years, but he was so much more than just someone with a byline in the Saturday paper after the football games.
Jimmy, who died Friday at the age of 79, was someone who was constantly encouraging everyone from all walks of life, no matter the team. He loved to see others succeed and I honestly think he took great pride in watching the development of an athlete like no one else I have come across in my short time in the business.
An Eastman employee for more than 30 years, Jimmy touched countless lives through his ever-uplifting personality and the big smile he always had on his face to greet you when you’d walk through the door. The line at his visitation early on Sunday stretched out of the Johnson-Arrowood Funeral Home in Church Hill, serving as a testament to that notion.
Jimmy always went above and beyond to recognize the kids in any sport. He strove to get everyone their “15 minutes of fame” whether it be a major accomplishment or a minor contribution. He knew most sports are not individualistic but based around teamwork.
That teamwork mentality trickled down from his time in Vietnam as a member of the First Artillery Division in the mid-1960s. While covering games, he talked with me often about his time in Southeast Asia fighting a war that ended up being one of the most controversial decisions in American history.
He served his country valiantly and, being a history person, I enjoyed him talking about Vietnam as much as anything.
When his boys Jeremy and Marty were of age, they too got into the family business of sports writing. During an interview with Marty a few weeks ago, he mentioned a story about his dad having to walk Jeremy through getting a post-game interview with the coaches and how to configure stats.
The boys had a pretty darn good teacher, and most of his sons’ stories I’ve come across read like they were written by seasoned veterans.
That’s another thing Jimmy was exceptional at: being a good teacher.
Many sports writers — including myself — learned some of the tricks of the trade from Jimmy.
I can still remember one of the first times I covered a Volunteer sporting event. It was one of those early March baseball games about three years ago and the wind was howling. It was cold and I was not the smartest, having brought only a thin, long-sleeved shirt and a small jacket to the game. Volunteer’s baseball stadium sits on the top of hill and that makes it even worse.
I went to get the starting lineups from the scoreboard operator behind home plate. When I asked the older gentleman if I could take a picture of them with my phone, he asked “Are you with the Times News?”
“Yes sir, I am,” I answered.
“We don’t associate with them,” the man said.
I walked away quite dejected because I didn’t know how I was going to cover the game if I didn’t have the names of the kids. Then I heard the man — Jimmy, of course — let out a booming laugh, and he said of course I could take a picture of the line- ups. He introduced himself and instantly sparked a friendship.
There were two things that Jimmy loved above all others in sports: golf and Tennessee football.
He and I talked a lot about the Vols’ 1998 national championship team — he got to cover every game they played. I was only 4 when Tennessee won the title, but he painted the picture beautifully and made me feel I had actually been at the game myself.
Perhaps one of Jimmy’s best stories was how he was one of the last ones to shake the late Johnny Majors’ hand before he went onto the field after the Vols beat Alabama in one of Bear Bryant’s last games.
Marty spoke of his dad’s great love for the game of golf and how he loved going to Augusta for the Masters. I can only imagine Jimmy cutting up with some of the professionals of the day.
As a sports writer, you’re supposed to maintain an unbiased attitude, at least on the surface.
Jimmy, though, loved the kids and the people of Volunteer and the Church Hill community as a whole. And they loved him back in some of the kindest ways.
When I first started covering Hawkins County sports for both Cherokee and Volunteer on a fairly regular basis, Jimmy was one of the first people to make me feel welcome. Being from Southwest Virginia, I felt a little out of my comfort zone, but his big smile was a welcome sight during those first few years and I can’t thank him enough for that.
Many people who knew Jimmy through Volunteer athletics echoed a sentiment: “Sports at Volunteer won’t be the same without Jimmy Moore.”
They won’t be the same.
But just as Jimmy trudged through the toughest last three years of his life dealing with sickness, personal tragedy and injuries while still covering Volunteer home events almost religiously, he would want us to continue marching forward.
A lifelong resident of Hawkins County, Jimmy could arguably be called the unofficial mayor of Church Hill, but I think it would be nice for Volunteer to do some sort of gesture. Perhaps name the press box at the football stadium in his honor?
Whatever the case may be, Jimmy Moore was one of the kindest and most encouraging gentlemen I have ever come across. He will be thoroughly missed in the sports writing, Church Hill and Northeast Tennessee communities.
Contact Tanner Cook via email at email@example.com.