Jim Simpson, veteran sportscaster and a key part of the ESPN on-air team at launch, died Jan. 13 at 88 following a short illness. Besides ESPN, which he joined in 1979, Simpson worked for ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as TNT.
In 1998, Simpson received 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.
“Jim brought tremendous credibility to ESPN in our early days, doing whatever was needed to help build the network,” says ESPN founder and first president, Bill Rasmussen. “Jim was a television legend.”
Simpson’s career started with writing an outdoors column for a weekly Washington newspaper, which led to a radio show. Several radio positions followed, including White House correspondent at WWDC.
In January 1949, he departed radio to join brand-new Channel 9 in Washington, doing sports and working alongside anchor Walter Cronkite. After working for all three of the broadcast networks at the time, he shifted to cable in 1979.
“Jim Simpson saw the future of sports television was on cable, and his move to ESPN gave our company instant credibility and stature,” said John Wildhack, ESPN executive VP, programming and production. “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.”
Simpson covered 14 Olympic Games, six Super Bowls, six World Series and 16 MLB All-Star games. He worked all of the Grand Slam golf and tennis events and all major college football bowl games, including 14 Orange Bowls. He also spent 15 seasons as an AFL and NFL broadcaster.