This is a very personal post about a very special friend and journalist.
Jim Huber’s prose resonated like poetry. A newspaper sports reporter who graduated to radio and television, everywhere he went, everyone he met, the result always was positive. Look up the words “class” and “gentleman” and certainly the picture you see above should be included.
I met Jim 37 years ago. I was news director of an Atlanta radio station. He was PR Director for the Atlanta Flames. Our station general manager saw something special in Jim, especially his writing. So he joined us as our sports director and soon his daily morning commentaries were appointment listening. I always was struck by the number of female listeners who tuned in for Jim’s sports-related comments. His prose was that good!
And his sense of humor. It was special. One day many years ago, I believe it was the LA Dodgers who signed the aged Minnie Minosa to their post-season baseball roster. It was a public relations move that generated lots of buzz. Minnie, of course, was a Latino and Jim played a tape supposedly of Minosa speaking Spanish at a Dodger press conference. Actually, it was tape of Brazilian soccer superstar Pele. Later that day, a listener called me and said he wasn’t absolutely certain, but he thought the tape was of someone speaking Portuguese, not Spanish. Yes, Jim did it purposely to see if anyone noticed.
Like a perfectly cut diamond, Jim had many facets. And among them was his unflappability. Although originally a print reporter, he adapted to his broadcast environment quickly and smoothly. He was a complete pro. He left radio for local TV, but his talent was much too big for one market. CNN knew that and hired him for their sports department. Anchoring and reporting were his staple duties, but his sports essays became his brand.
Recognizing his very special skill, Jim was given more opportunities to grow that brand. The ideas for his essays were his own and he was afforded the time to write and produce them. CNN knew it had someone and something special and the network took advantage of it.
While sports was Jim’s second love—after family—golf was his special passion. For years, he was the in-depth interviewer and essayist for TBS and its coverage of the PGA. He became a celebrity in his own right (although that probably made him uncomfortable) within the professional golf community. His inherent kindness always came out in his work. Jim had a golden touch; he was a master wordsmith, and when an idea struck, he often could quickly turn out a beautiful piece.
I had lunch with Jim a little over a year ago. It was a great reunion. We had not seen each other for years, despite living in the same metropolitan area. Too often, life gets in the way of what makes living so special. We talked about getting together with our wives one evening soon for dinner. We never did and I will forever regret it.
A few days before this past Christmas, Jim had a cough that kept getting worse. He finally went to an ER for medical assistance. The diagnosis was acute Leukemia. One day after New Year’s, he was gone. Taken from us so unexpectedly, without any warning. I still cannot accept the fact that he’s gone.
Jim was 67. That’s much too young. He had so much more to do, so much more to give.
Too often the good do seem to die young.
There are a number of examples of Jim’s essays online. Here are links to two of them. One on the late Wayman Tisdale chronicling his battle with cancer. The other on the retirement of celebrated NBA coach Phil Jackson.