EDITOR’S NOTE: For downloadable pictures of Jim Simpson, click here.
Longtime ESPN executives and commentators reflected today upon their warm memories of one of the network’s most important early figures, legendary sportscaster Jim Simpson.
Simpson passed away today, Wednesday, Jan. 13, in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the age of 88 after a short illness. One of sports television’s most enduring, versatile and congenial personalities, Simpson worked for ABC, NBC, CBS, TNT and notably for ESPN at its launch over his 50-plus years in the business. His move to a fledgling cable network during its first month on the air in September 1979 defied conventional wisdom, but gave ESPN a much-needed prominent lead personality and made the industry take notice.
In 1998, Simpson received the highest honor in the sportscasting industry, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Sports Emmy Awards, presented by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 2000, he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.
James Shores Simpson was born in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 20, 1927. Raised in Chevy Chase, Md., he was graduated from Devett Prep in Washington, D.C., and served in the Coast Guard before attending George Washington University and UCLA. He is survived by his wife, Ann Crowley Jones, a friend of 50 years whom he married in 2006. He is also survived by his son and four daughters, Bret, Kim Howard, Sherry Petersen, Suzanne Cleary and B.J. Kline; as well as 18 grandchildren and two great-grandsons.
ESPN Colleagues Remember Jim
“On Jim’s first visit to Bristol I met him at the airport and immediately experienced his warm personality. He brought tremendous credibility to ESPN in our early days, doing whatever was needed to help build the network. Jim was a television legend.” –- ESPN Founder and first President, Bill Rasmussen
“Jim Simpson saw the future of sports television was on cable, and his move to ESPN gave our company instant credibility and stature. His unsurpassed professionalism and smooth delivery graced our telecasts for many years. There has never been a finer or more unassuming man to reach such heights in his profession. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends and colleagues.” — ESPN Executive Vice President, Programming and Production, John Wildhack, who joined ESPN in 1980 and worked frequently with Simpson
“Jim Simpson was a legend at NBC and brought a standard of excellence to ESPN that set the tone for so many to follow. I was honored he was assigned to work with me as I was just starting out. He had a tremendous influence on me and assisted me early in my career. He was special. Jim Simpson was as good as it gets.” –- ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who joined ESPN in 1979 and frequently partnered with Simpson
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the video below Bob Ley, who joined ESPN in September 1979, saluted Simpson on today’s Outside The Lines. If the video below does not play on your device, click here. For more on Simpson’s life and salutes from his colleagues, visit ESPN MediaZone.