Losing a legend: Furman Bisher

Furman Bisher (AJC file)

Furman Bisher (AJC file)

It’s the end of a era in sports journalism with the loss of Furman Bisher.

I grew up reading his column in the afternoon Journal, which I delivered in Athens, and always watched the Sunday football season TV show he hosted with other Atlanta sportswriters. The man who hired me straight out of college, Jim Minter, was one of the regulars on that show.

Years later, after starting out on the morning Constitution (as did Furman), I switched over to the afternoon cycle and spent quite a few years on the Journal, which was Furman’s newspaper home for so many decades. I once mentioned him to a friend in New Jersey, and my friend knew Bisher from his work in the Sporting News.

I didn’t work with Furman directly but always got a kick out of seeing him in the newsroom, usually grousing about something. One time he got on the elevator with me and was fussing and fuming about something. Then he looked up at me and winked. Like he was saying, “I have to keep up my image.”

My favorite Bisher memory, though, is when I spent a fun evening sitting next to him a few years ago at the AJC’s 25 Year Club banquet along with a few other old Journal staffers. Lots of amusing stories and although he was the evening’s featured speaker, he showed a refreshing irreverence.

I know some UGA fans thought he was overly fond of the school on North Avenue, but I never let that get in the way of my enjoyment of Bisher at his best … telling the tale behind the sporting event.

And even in retirement, he was still a holiday staple. Thanksgiving mornings won’t be the same without his “thankful” columns … which always managed to choke me up just a little.

Selah, Furman.

70 comments Add your comment

CT Braves & Falcons Fan

March 18th, 2012
11:01 pm

RIP & Godspeed, Furman.

JD Harris

March 18th, 2012
11:03 pm

Lewis Grizzard dedicated one of his books to Bisher, stating of him “he’s right more often than he’s wrong”. In the newspaper business, I guess that’s high praise.

Mountain Dawg

March 18th, 2012
11:09 pm

More than a ’sportswriter’, he was a writer, period. (albeit with a slight bias towards the nerds!)

oldfart

March 18th, 2012
11:37 pm

A life well lived and well written. Selah.

Jimmy m.

March 18th, 2012
11:41 pm

I delivered both the Journal and the Constitution newspapers in the morning for years in Statesboro in the 60’s reading both Outlar and Bisher everday. Writers like them are no more. And you are pretty good, yourself, Bill.

Yunel's Frosted Tips

March 18th, 2012
11:50 pm

One of the greatest I ever read………….RIP Furman

Steve From Dalton

March 19th, 2012
12:10 am

The loss of a Legend and a great Wordsmiths. We will not see his like again

DawgVoiceofReason

March 19th, 2012
12:11 am

A true sports writing legend is gone. The word legend gets used too often but this is one time it fits. I too will really miss his Thanksgiving column.

I started out as a fan of one of Furman’s fellow Atlanta sportswriters, Jesse Outlar, who preceeded him in retirement and death. He was a great one also. As I got older, I grew to appreciate Furman and his style. What really hooked me was his Thanksgiving column and his overall thoughtful and insightful approach to all of the major events he covered. Unlike too many of today’s columnists and writers, he never would have been sarcastic or a “smart aleck”.

I’m thankful that he was with us as long as he was and kept writing even in his retirement. My condolences to his family.

RanDawg

March 19th, 2012
12:40 am

-As a long time supporter and follower of the Dawgs(’71) I have read more of his columns than I can count.Before the Internet and 24/7 news we actually had to read about the Dawgs and other sports in the newspaper and somehow it was not a burden when he was writing.I always looked forward to his column in the sports section…especially on Sunday morning.He was very clever and often related sports to other events that were current at the moment and gave us all a sense of understanding and how it all worked together.
We won’t see that period of reporting like that again,and I will miss this man….someone I always looked up to.

Whopper Dawg

March 19th, 2012
1:03 am

He was great. He and Outlar’s columns were outstanding. RIP.

Herb Bell

March 19th, 2012
2:36 am

I grew up in Atlanta, loving the Crackers, Georgia Tech, Bobby Dodd… and later the Braves. In my early 20s, I was transferred to New York City.

I missed the Atlanta sports section, my boyhood teams and Bisher’s columns so much that I had a subscription of the Atlanta Journal mailed to me in NYC.

After NYC, I moved to Nashville, which became home. For many years, I had my parents save the sports section for me and I’d catch up a bit when I visited with my parents in Atlanta.

He could paint a beautiful picture with words… like no other sports writer I’ve read. And I loved it when the Journal became available on the internet so I could get a daily dose of my teams and favorite writers.

And that Thanksgiving column… many more than just sports fans had that on their “must read” list!

Ed Danforth, Jesse Outlar, Furman Bisher… what a treasure trove of writers Atlanta and the region were blessed with!

I am thankful when talent that enlightens and inspires comes our way.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us Furman Bisher!

UGA FRIEND

March 19th, 2012
5:07 am

Bill: I do not think Furman was so much biased towards GT as some others do. I believe he simply had great personal respect for Bobby Dodd which may have given some people that idea.

CH3

March 19th, 2012
5:58 am

13-1 what does that have to do with furman bisher?

Jacket99

March 19th, 2012
6:23 am

RIP Furman Bisher.

lanier

March 19th, 2012
6:33 am

Bish had no peers. A stand alone sportswriter

red&black

March 19th, 2012
6:36 am

Bill you probably remember this.

One of (if not my favorite) columns by Furman was the one he wrote after the ‘02 UGA-Tech game. I have that framed. His words describing the scene where the Tech players gathered at the center of the field at Sanford stadium and proceeded to jump up and down on the logo was excellent. He then added the quote about UGA administering a beating of “mortifying proportions”….pricelss…..The score by the way was Dawgs 51-Tech 7. I was fortunate enough to be at the game, and Tech folks were fleeing the stadium so fast, you’d have thought the place was on fire. In a way it was for them. It must have seemed like they were truly in hell..

RIP Furman, you were a great man, as well as a fantastic writer. I personally will miss you, especially at Thanksgiving.

zgoldatl

March 19th, 2012
7:21 am

Thanksgiving will not be the same. I’m thankful for the years Mr. Bisher gave to the world. Selah

Southeast Sports Syndicate

March 19th, 2012
7:53 am

I knew Furman from many years of covering The Masters. What a giant and a personable man. For the legend from little Denton, NC– rest in peace. The Masters won’t be the same. At least we will have his books to remind us of him.

SEC Football

March 19th, 2012
7:56 am

A LEGEND WE WILL MISS!!!!!!!!!

ramblingbuzz

March 19th, 2012
7:58 am

Although I never met Mr. Bisher, I felt like I knew him well. As a young boy growing up in the metro Atlanta area in the 50s and 60s, before the advent of televised everything, Bisher was the lens through which I viewed the great sporting events in Atlanta. Perhaps even more than Ciraldo and Munson, Bisher was the defining journalist for Tech-UGA. A lengend and an era has passed.

dean

March 19th, 2012
8:22 am

We all knew this day was coming. I wish it never would have. Rest in peace, Mr. Bisher.

Silverdogg

March 19th, 2012
8:39 am

I see Thomas Brown has shown his class as usual.

Simply, the best

March 19th, 2012
8:47 am

Skip, Larry and now Furman. Another piece of my youth is gone, and there won’t be another
like him…the editors wouldn’t allow it. And that is sad.
Rest peacefully, Furman. Tell Larry we miss him.

Dawg_Mike

March 19th, 2012
9:05 am

Furman, Please say hello to Lewis Grizzard and Munson for us.
As a young boy growing up in metro ATL in the 60’s all I had was the paper and his wit and wisdom.
It was a different era for sure. My, how we appreciate the simple things now that life is way too complicated.

RIP sir.

Selah.

Norm Carlson

March 19th, 2012
9:10 am

I was fortunate to be hired at the AJC immediately following graduation from the University of Florida in 1956 by Edwin Pope, who left for the Miami Herald soon thereafter. Furman Bisher came downstairs from the Constitution to the Journal and occupied a glassed-in office. Jim Minter actually ran the place and made sure the paper got out in timely fashion. Furman would stick his head out of his office and make suggestions or circle something he considered to be incorrect , or utter the dreaded “gotta minute” to request your presence. He took me out to a Georgia Tech practice one day and got me a spot on the tower with Coach Bobby Dodd and also introduced me to Ray Graves, who became a good friend. In the long run those acts changed my life. Graves went to Florida and hired me as sports information director and I’m now in my 50th year at UF. I’ll never forget going to Athens with Furman when Wally Butts was the head football coach and hearing Coach Butts complain about an article he had written on the Bulldogs. Furman’s answer was, “Wally, if you want I can find something negative to write about your program every day.” Furman was a brilliant writer, crusty, arrogant at times and a great reporter.

Georgia Girl.

March 19th, 2012
9:11 am

I grew up reading his sports colummn, admiring his ability to teach, inspire, inform. He will be missed. He was the very best.

Lewis Grizzard was correct...

March 19th, 2012
9:15 am

…all he ever wanted to do as a sportswriter was to “write like Furman Bisher” – selah…

Gator Norm

March 19th, 2012
9:22 am

I was fortunate to be hired at the AJC by Edwin Pope in 1956 following graduation from the University of Florida. Furman came downstairs from the Constitution to the Journal in August of that year. He occupied a glassed-in space in the sports department the rest of the staff worked in an open section where the “rim” was located and run by Jim Minter, who actually ran the show. Whenver Bisher came out of his office , looked at you and uttered the dreaded “gotta minute” you could enter his space .He was a brilliant writer who did turn out to be a good friend over the years of my 50 year career in sports information at Auburn and Florida. The journalism profession was blessed by his presence.

how2fish

March 19th, 2012
9:25 am

Lewis Grizzard, Larry Munson and now Furman Bisher…….damn I’ve been lucky to be able to enjoy reading and listening to some of the best ever…RIP Furman you were a great writer and a Southern Gentleman of the first order..

Big Ol Stinger

March 19th, 2012
9:25 am

Thanksgiving Morning, first cup of coffee, nobody else up in the house yet. Pointer and german shepherd laying by my chair watching me read Furman Bisher’s Thanksgiving column.

Damn, I’m gonna miss that.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

March 19th, 2012
9:33 am

I am THANKFUL for the years we got to read his words.

Flo-Ri-Duh

March 19th, 2012
9:39 am

Furman Bisher and Lewis Grizzard made “The Atlanta Journal” a great newspaper. We love you Furman.

murfdawg

March 19th, 2012
9:44 am

As a native Atlantan, I will miss Bisher.
I can’t imagine Thanksgiving without reading his column.

I remember he wrote a column about the Kentucky Derby and said he didn’t know how the horses could run from the smell of bourbon in the air. A lady from Decatur, who was a Louisville native, took exception to the comment. Bisher issued an apology.Many years later, the lady from Decatur became my mother-in-law and she never appreciated Bisher’s style.

In the early days of the Hawks, when they were playing at GT, the NBA had two refs, Earl Strom and Mendy Rudolph, who could control the game. On one such night, with Bisher and his portable typewriter sitting courtside, he made a couple of comments about the officiating that the refs heard. All of a sudden play stopped and Bisher was “asked to leave the arena”. The ref stood at the press table and stared at Bisher as he packed up his typewriter and walked to the top of the coliseum to a standing ovation.

One last thought. I always appreciated his outlook on the Tech-UGA rivalry. He made me stop and think that it really isn’t a matter of life or death.

George Stein

March 19th, 2012
10:11 am

I know I’ll miss the annual Thanksgiving column, but I’m awfully thankful we got the privilege of reading his work for so many years.

RIP, Furman Bisher.

'Bama Dawg

March 19th, 2012
10:11 am

I honestly thought the man would live forever. Hoped he would, anyway. The world needs more Furman Bishers.

Rest in peace, Furman Bisher, and selah.

Radly Dawg

March 19th, 2012
10:12 am

I can still see that big ol Sunday edition of the AJC in the driveway….I could not wait to tear into it to read about by beloved Dawgs. Furman, Jesse, and Harry…were the “gate keepers” of sports journalism back in those golden years of college football…60’s-70’s!!!!!!!!!! They set the standard for resposnsible, informative, and un-biased sports reporting! I agree with a writer above…Mr. Bisher had a great respect and admiration for Bobby Dodd…and who didn’t!! I am a dyed in the wool, red and black Bulldog! However, I always had the utmost reverence and respect for Coach Dodd…what a class act he was…and his teams were as well! College sports has drifted away from the integrity it once knew when these great men were around. God bless you and your family Mr. Furman…thanks for coming my way! Selah!!!

Radly Dawg
Metter, Ga.

Frosty Dawg

March 19th, 2012
10:17 am

Back when the Atlanta Journal really did “Cover Dixie Like the Dew,” we took it for granted, just like we took Larry Munson for granted, but we depended on it for in depth news that was not available from television news or local papers (certainly not the Athens papers). Now I miss its often brilliant sports journalism, definitely including Mr. Bisher’s.

In fact, I fondly remember an “I Beat Bisher” bumper sticker I scored in 1980 after outguessing his college football picks one week. I wish I’d kept it kept it instead of putting it on the car next to “Herschel for Heisman.” In fact, I wish I’d kept both!

Fats OKelly

March 19th, 2012
10:22 am

Mr.Bisher was my all time favorite sports writer. He had a way of giving a life lesson on many of his columns. I will have to get a collection of his best columns. One that stood out was the column about an athlete that had tremendous fame but ended up pumping gas at a service station in the Carolinas in the 70’s. Bisher presented his stories in such a clever way that even non sport fans would even read his columns. I hope current journalists will study his methods and be inspired,although no way to replace Mr. Bisher.

Big Crimson 75

March 19th, 2012
10:26 am

RIP — Mr. Bisher

RxDawg

March 19th, 2012
10:41 am

A bit before my time. But it’s never happy to see the greats move on.

But he’s got a really cool name doesn’t he?

Still@theKool-aidBAR

March 19th, 2012
10:46 am

I wonder what they will do with his TYPEWRITER? It needs to be in the Hall of Fame for Sports Writers.

johnw

March 19th, 2012
11:01 am

Furman Bisher can never be replaced. I am so sad to hear of his passing. Thanksgiving mornings will never be the same again. I will truly miss his work. May God rest his soul. He was the greatest.

Top Row Dawg

March 19th, 2012
11:19 am

Never cared much for Bisher as I inherited my dad’s dislike for him as a Tech man. He blew up the Holt-Graning incident out of proportion with Alabama and then had a strong involvement on the Butts – Bryant libelous story in the Saturday Evening Post. I always felt his journalistic integrity was questionable after that.

The downfall of Tech as a football program must have been hard for Bisher over the years. But I did enjoy his Thanksgiving post and my favorite article of his still graces the wall on my home. The one that reads…..

Unbeaten, Untied, Unbelievable

As someone as said already Munson, Grizzard, Bisher, Outlar, Ciraldo, time marches on but I was blessed to hear and read these men in my lifetime.

harold

March 19th, 2012
11:29 am

Between Furman Bisher-Guy Tiller- Danforth- and Dan Magill there was a great deal of excitement about sports in Georgia years ago.

Dawg Tired

March 19th, 2012
11:34 am

I always enjoyed reading Furman Bisher’s columns and hearing him speak. He will surely be missed by many of us.

Old Dawg

March 19th, 2012
11:45 am

Furman Bisher outlived his era. He was able to convey in a few paragraphs printed on pulp the atmosphere of any given event. I’m not sure that can be appreciated in an age where we are accustomed to live television coverage where it requires dozens of hi-def cameras, microphones, and talking heads to give us as much of the story. Munson had this gift as well but in a different media that is also on the wane. I can honestly say we will never see their like again because that era has passed with them. Selah.

MOBravos

March 19th, 2012
11:47 am

I beat Bish once upon a time. One of the highlights of my athletic career.

Good man; great writer. My grandpop and I used to walk over a mile one way to a small store on the beach near Jacksonville, just to get the Journal on Sundays. Comics and sports were mine; the rest went to G. The Furmanator was ever a must-read. Thank you for all the fun and insight that went into your columns, Bish. Selah.

Jacketdad

March 19th, 2012
12:00 pm

Losing guys like Munson and Bisher leaves a gaping hole in the Georgia sports landscape. They are true legends that all sports fans like me were lucky enough to be exposed to.

Breaking Out The Monday Links

March 19th, 2012
12:03 pm

[...] King of the AJC says Bisher’s shadow looms large in [...]

bkbroila

March 19th, 2012
12:27 pm

It is always a great feeling on a monday morning to read nice things said about a person or cause and have everyone unit in their feelings….no bickering, just remembering and sharing memories of an admirable man…God Bless