Former Chattanooga Times Sports Writer Wirt Gammon Jr. Dies At 84

Sunday, February 10, 2019
Wirt Gammon Jr. with his sister, Ann Weeks
Wirt Gammon Jr. with his sister, Ann Weeks

Wirt H. Gammon, Jr., a longtime sports writer for the Chattanooga Times, has died at the age of 84.

He had followed his father's profession. Wirt Gammon Sr. had worked as a sports writer or editor at the Chattanooga Times from 1930 until the mid-1970s. He then continued writing a column once a week until shortly before his death in 1985.

Wirt Gammon Jr. grew up in North Chattanooga and graduated from Normal Park School, North Side Junior High and Chattanooga High.  He was a graduate of the University of Chattanooga, where he majored in English and minored in Languages.  He was also a member of the Varsity Tennis Team. 

He served in the U. S. Army after World War II and was stationed in Europe as a language translator.

Wirt Gammon Jr. was a sports writer for the Chattanooga Times for 20 years during which time he spent a decade as a SEC Skywriter, representing the Chattanooga Times on preseason football tours around the Southeastern Conference. 

“I grew up reading the sports page because my father had a column in there every day,” he told John Shearer in an interview.

As a youngster, he traveled with his father to occasional Tennessee football games, including the Orange Bowl loss to Rice in Miami after the 1946 season. He also went to the Lookouts’ spring training in Florida one year.

When he went to work for the Times in 1966, he initially covered and helped coordinate the coverage of high school sports. Then, in 1972, the Tennessee football beat became available. Jay Searcy, who was offered the position, preferred writing columns and did not want to be tied down to just one sport or team.

So, Wirt Gammon Jr. became the UT football beat writer and held the position for 14 years. During that time, Coach Bill Battle’s teams began a slow, downward slide, forcing him to resign after the 1976 season. Former star tailback Johnny Majors was then hired, but he needed several seasons to get the program winning again consistently.

Among his highlights of covering Tennessee was in 1982, when the Vols beat Alabama for the first time since 1970 and the students tore down the goal posts at Neyland Stadium.

“It was a wild celebration scene on the field,” he remembered. “He (Coach Majors) was so happy he finally got to beat ‘Bear’ Bryant. He looked like he was going to have a stroke.”

During his tenure, Gammon became acquainted with a number of the coaches and players. Joe Avezzano was on the staff of some of Johnny Majors’ early teams at Tennessee, and Gammon remembered seeing him later on television as a special teams coach with the Dallas Cowboys.

Gammon’s last game covering UT was one of the most memorable for Big Orange fans – the 35-7 upset victory over Miami in the Sugar Bowl after the 1985 season.

During his retirement, he received a certificate from Chattanooga State in landscaping and turf management.  He worked at Home & Lawn Care and volunteered at Reflection Riding working with native plants. 

Gammon served as scorekeeper for the Chattanooga Lookouts for many years.  He was a member of the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame and served on the board of drectors as their treasurer. 

He is survived by his sister Ann (Brad) Weeks, Lookout Mountain; nieces Sarah (Peter) Robbins, Chattanooga; Brooke Weeks (Lee Pike), Portland Oregon; great niece and nephews Maggie and William Robbins and Max Pike.

Visitation will be on Friday, February 15, 2019 at 10 a.m. and a Celebration of Life Service will be held at 11 a.m. at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 848 Ashland Terrace, the Rev. Quinn Parman and the Rev. John Rouser officiating. 

In lieu of flowers, a memorial contribution may be made to the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame, 952 Wyndsor Drive, Hixson, TN 37343 or St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 848 Ashland Terrace, Chattanooga, TN 37415 for the Clergy’s discretionary funds.

Arrangements are by Hamilton Funeral Home and Cremation Services.


PREP BASEBALL/SOFTBALL/SOCCER SCHEDULES

Cleveland High School's Francisco Davis Signs With Cleveland State Men's Cross Country

Dan Fleser: Cleveland's Camden Sewell Is Part Of Top Vol Pitching Corps


(Changes, Corrections Or Additions: Please Notify Dennis Norwood at dennisnorwood56@gmail.com) PREP BASEBALL THURSDAY, APRIL 25 Silverdale at Grace Walker Valley vs. Meigs Co. at ... (click for more)

Cleveland State Men’s Cross Country has signed another local runner to their 2019 squad, adding Francisco Davis from Cleveland High School to their roster on April 17th. “Francisco is an incredible ... (click for more)

KNOXVILLE – From the near corner of Tennessee’s dugout – the one closest to home plate and the pitcher’s mound – Frank Anderson keeps a watchful eye on his flock. The Vols baseball assistant ... (click for more)


Sports

PREP BASEBALL/SOFTBALL/SOCCER SCHEDULES

(Changes, Corrections Or Additions: Please Notify Dennis Norwood at dennisnorwood56@gmail.com) PREP BASEBALL THURSDAY, APRIL 25 Silverdale at Grace Walker Valley vs. Meigs Co. at Cleveland State Rhea Co. at Knox. Catholic St. Andrew’s-Sewanee at Notre Dame Baylor at MBA Van Buren Co. at CSAS Greenback at Cleveland Tellico Plains at East Ridge Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Cleveland High School's Francisco Davis Signs With Cleveland State Men's Cross Country

Cleveland State Men’s Cross Country has signed another local runner to their 2019 squad, adding Francisco Davis from Cleveland High School to their roster on April 17th. “Francisco is an incredible young man,” head coach David Kyle said. “He is a hard-worker and I can’t wait to see him run at the next level. He has a very supportive family and everyone that meets him immediately ... (click for more)

Breaking News

County School Supt. Bryan Johnson Submits Budget That Requires A Tax Increase

County School Supt. Dr. Bryan Johnson said Thursday he is submitting a budget that is $34 million above the projected revenue. Asked where the $34 million would come from, Dr. Johnson said it would be "up to the funding body." If approved by the County School Board, the school board would go to the County Commission requiring a sizable tax increase. Dr. Johnson said he ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Red Wolves Investing $125 Million In East Ridge For Stadium, Mixed-Use Development

Chattanooga Red Wolves SC will build a state-of-the-art, soccer-specific stadium in East Ridge as part of a mixed-use development with living, working and entertaining opportunities. On Thursday, team owner Bob Martino presented renderings and the layout for the area, which will include the first-class professional stadium, housing, retail, restaurants, a hotel and significant greenspaces ... (click for more)

Opinion

How Can City, WWTA Get Away With Chronic Sewage Discharges Onto Our Streets?

A wastewater or service utility is simply a defined service in exchange for a fee. What if I pay a utility fee in exchange for a defined service, and the utility fails to deliver the service as agreed? As an example, I pay a private solid waste collection service to collect, transport, and dispose of garbage. Municipalities also operate waste collection and disposal. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Guest Columnists

Every day I get over 100 emails. Add what I find in My Morning Readings and I am a good candidate to be “Mr. Inspiration.” I have tried to figure out a way to pass some of what I believe are “The Wonders of Life” like I now do on weekends with “The Saturday Funnies.” You would have no idea how popular those jokes have become and several readers say they are the best thing I write ... (click for more)