Former sports editor at The News Herald, Durward Buck, will be the
newest inductee into the Burke County Sports Hall of Fame.
The announcement was made late last week by the Men’s Club of
Morganton and the Morganton Parks and Recreation Department, co-sponsors of the
local Hall of Fame.
According to a press release, Buck “is remembered most for his
dedication and complete coverage of youth and high school sports in Burke
County” during his time at The News Herald from 1963-77.
Buck, 80, graduated from the University of North Carolina and
began his career as a sports writer at the Wilmington Star-News in 1958. After
leaving Morganton, Buck worked at the Johnson City (Tenn.) Press until 1981,
when he moved to Winter Haven, Fla., and worked for two papers in that area in
a full-time capacity over the next 21 years: the News-Chief and the Ledger.
Buck was inducted into the Florida High School Athletic
Association (FHSAA) Hall of Fame in 2009. Prior to that, he was named Florida
Athletic Coaches Association writer of the year in 1995 and won the Polk County
(Fla.) Sports Hall of Fame media award.
Buck campaigned through his columns for the FHSAA to push its
athletic eligibility requirement from a 1.5 GPA to 2.0, and his influence also
led the state to move prep football games to 7:30 p.m. to avoid students
leaving stadiums during dangerous driving hours.
Buck told the Ledger in 2009: “I found out I don’t like writing
negative things about people, and I got to avoid that covering preps. High
school athletics are the last bastion of amateurism in this country.”
In his time in Burke County, Buck saw area high schools
consolidate from eight to two and came up with the nickname “Fat Friday,” for
the Freedom-East Burke football rivalry.
“If anyone loved any and all sports, it was him,” said former
Burke County Post 21 American Legion baseball coach Ron Swink, who played two
sports at Salem High and later played industrial men’s fast pitch softball
during its local heyday, two sports Buck frequently covered.
“He just loved what he did and wanted teams doing well to get the
proper recognition. He was everywhere.”
Gerald Hicks, a former Olive Hill and Morganton high school
student-athlete, currently works at the Mountain View Recreation Center and was
a stringer for Buck.
“If you played it, he printed it,” Hicks said. “Marbles,
horseshoes, whatever. With eight high schools playing football each Friday and
basketball each Tuesday and Friday, I’m sure it was hard to get everything in,
but he always did.
“He loved American Legion baseball. And we used to have a super
men’s industrial basketball league. He would cover that. We used to have
all-star teams from the church and industrial softball leagues play against
each other, and he covered that too.”
Morganton High alum Gary Leonhardt, the long-time Morganton Parks
and Recreation director, said Buck taught local scorekeepers how to annotate
detailed notes so their score sheets could be used to generate stories.
“He was at a game every night,” Leonhardt said. “We had two youth
baseball games each night in those days, and they always got in. If I didn’t
have scorebooks to him by about 8 a.m. each day, I could be assured I’d get a
call. … He covered youth swimming and also announced swim meets.
“He was a big believer in the joy a child got from seeing his name
in the paper. He was the man for his time for sports in this area.”
This year’s induction banquet will be held April 24 at 6:30 p.m.
at CoMMA. Tickets will be available for purchase at the Collett Street
Recreation Center, at Sain’s Barber Shop and at CoMMA starting March 9. Seating
will be limited.