Larry Fleming, one of this area’s most respected sports writers, left this world for his heavenly home, following a brief illness, on November 1, 2019. He passed at his home surrounded by those he loved the most. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend.
Larry was born September 1, 1944, in Athens, Tennessee to Charles and Geneva Fleming. Growing up in McMinn County, he was a well-known high school baseball player, playing shortstop for the McMinn County High School Cherokees.
He had been offered a scholarship to Rollins College before enduring a career-ending injury to his throwing arm.
Mr. Fleming began a 55-year career in journalism in 1964, working as a photographer for the Daily Post-Athenian, later moving into his dream job as a sports writer. In January 1967, he answered a phone call from then Chattanooga Times sports editor Jay Searcy and began a 31 year journey with the then morning paper here in Chattanooga.
While working at the Times Larry became the beat writer for Tennessee football and basketball from the 1970s through 1998, as well as covering he Chattanooga Lookouts. While covering the Lookouts, his son Dusty became a batboy, making it a family affair.
During his tenure covering Tennessee he became good friends with Vols basketball coach Don DeVoe and began a lifetime friendship with Bud Ford of the UT sports information office.
According to Mr. Ford, “Larry Fleming was more than just a sports reporter who covered the University of Tennessee. To me he was a friend who happened to be in the sports coverage business.”
Mr. Fleming would always remark that he didn’t really have a job, this was just having fun. Larry often talked about following the UT football team across the country. He would turn some of those trips, such as the Rose Bowl and Lookouts spring training in Arizona, into family times
One of his more momentous memories was, “The spine-tingling experience of walking out the tunnel toward the sidelines at Notre Dame.”
In 1987, Larry was named the Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year, as awarded by his peers in the National Sports Media Association.
Larry was a fierce competitor in the days that Chattanooga was a two-paper town. He was focused on always getting the news for the Times before the News-Free Press could get it into print.
He was part of a team that at times included Searcy, Buck Johnson, Stan Crawley, Mike Brown, Andy Daffron and Wirt Gammon, Sr. and Jr. He partnered for many years with Times photographer Phillip Schmidt.
He competed against writers like Austin White, Allan Morris, Ward Gossett, Sam Woolwine, Dan Cook and other News-Free Press stalwarts.
After the News-Free Press and Times were sold and merged, Larry became the sports editor of the Dalton Daily Citizen-News, covering high school sports all across the North Georgia region from 2000 to 2011.
In 2011, Larry began a new career, writing for The Chattanoogan.com. He would again take on covering Tennessee football and area prep football, volleyball, baseball and softball. He was also able to reconnect with his Neyland Stadium press box neighbor Bruce Coleman of the Kingsport Times.
Bruce recalls the last time they left the stadium together, “Larry said, don’t look back.”
Coaches always knew Larry would ask tough questions, but would then be fair in what he wrote.
Gary Ownbey, the radio voice of the 2018 State Class 3A champion Bradley Central Bearettes on Mix 104.1 in Cleveland, remembers Larry this way, “I’ll always remember Larry for his candidness and willingness to ask tough but fair questions that others would be too afraid or too timid to ask. His compassion and love for the high school game was always there for whatever sport he covered… he had a lot of contacts who trusted him to always do and write the proper factual story.”
Larry was a 2002 inductee into the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame, as well as being inducted into the Tennessee Sports Writers Hall of Fame in 2011. He was a Heisman Trophy voter for many years.
He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother Mike and a beloved daughter, Karen.
A devoted family man, Larry is survived by his wife of 55 years, Donna, son Dustin, daughter-in-law Liz and the apples of his eye, grandchildren Austin and Madi.
He also leaves behind many friends and co-workers, past and present, who will miss him dearly.
The family would like to thank Dr. Katrina Gooden and her staff for their excellent care.
The family will hold a private memorial service. Donations may be made to Cystic Fibrosis for research.
Visit www.heritagechattanooga.com to share condolences to Larry’s family.
Arrangements are by Heritage Funeral Home, 7454 East Brainerd Road.