Jack Whitaker, decorated sports broadcaster, dies

Jack Whitaker, the iconic sports broadcaster, died Sunday morning at his home in Devon, Pennsylvania, of natural causes at age 95.

Whitaker’s career spanned nearly four decades after starting at CBS Sports in the late 1950s, the network reported Sunday. There, he covered a range of sports and a number of momentous events, including the first-ever Super Bowl in 1967 and Secretariat’s famed victory at the 1973 Triple Crown horse race. He later went on to work for ABC, where he announced the Summer and Winter Olympic Games in 1984 and 1988 for ABC Sports and also reported for ABC’s “World News Tonight” and “Nightline.”

CBS Sports confirmed Whitaker’s death Sunday night.

“There will never be another Jack Whitaker in sports broadcasting,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “His amazing writing ability, on-air presence and humanity are unmatched. His unique perspective on sports ranging from horse racing to golf to NFL football was extraordinary.”

Whitaker was known for his power as an essayist. At the inaugural Sports Emmy Awards Gala in 1979, Whitaker was named Outstanding Sports Personality. In 2012, Whitaker was honored with the Emmy for Sports Lifetime Achievement and was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

“Jack Whitaker brought thoughtful perspective, a sports fan’s passion and dignified gravitas to his every assignment, and his graceful prose elevated the presentation of sports’ biggest events,” John Skipper, then-president of ESPN, said at the 2012 Sports Emmy Awards Gala.

Whitaker was born on May 18, 1924, and raised near Philadelphia. After graduating from Saint Joseph’s University, he worked for several small, local radio stations before making the jump to TV. He said in interviews that it was a habit of frequently listening to the radio while growing up that made him into a self-professed “news junkie.”

Whitaker also served in the United States Army during World War II, according to The Desert Sun. He landed on Omaha Beach three days after D-Day in 1944 and was honorably discharged the following year.

CBS News reported that Whitaker is survived by his wife, Patricia; daughters Marybeth Helgevold and Ann Hanan; and sons Gerry, Whitaker, Jack Whitaker III and Kevin Whitaker, as well as 11 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. CBS reported that funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.