For many Carolina alumni and Tar Heel fans, Woody Durham ’63 has been a part of our lives longer than we’ve been married. For others, Woody was the “Voice of the Tar Heels” before they were born. (This is certainly the case for Debbie and me — we were married in September 1978 — as well as for our sons Michael ’03 and Brian ’05.) Just as former Carolina students not living in Chapel Hill find it reassuring to know that, whenever they return, they can be certain that the Old Well, the Bell Tower and the Davie Poplar remain where and as they remember, supporters of men’s basketball and Carolina football have long been comforted that the familiar play-by-play voice describing games remained unchanged for 40 years.
I remember in the 1970s calling my mother in Fayetteville and asking her to put the phone up to the radio so I could listen to a Carolina-Clemson football game. Later, while living in suburban Washington, D.C., I often drove at night to the top of a nearby hill where I could pick up a North Carolina radio station and listen to Woody and Carolina men’s basketball games. Since returning to Chapel Hill, I’ve often listened to games that I’ve also watched in Carmichael Auditorium, the Smith Center and Kenan Stadium. And I’m among the many who regularly “turn down the sound” to listen to Woody when watching Carolina men’s basketball and football on TV.
What many may not fully appreciate is that what allowed Woody Durham to earn N.C. Broadcaster of the Year 13 times and membership in the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame was his meticulous preparation, his knowledge of not only these two sports but his passion for our University, the trust he earned from coaches and players, the relationships he developed, and his relentless commitment to “get it right.” Along the way, he helped raise millions of dollars for the Ronald McDonald House and UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center; mentored many young, aspiring broadcasters; and accepted every speaking request from the GAA, the Rams Club and the University.
Happily, Woody said at his news conference in April that he is “retiring from doing the games, but not retiring from Carolina.” Already, he and his wife, Jean, have agreed to host the GAA’s “Fall Foliage Voyage to the Hudson River and the New England Islands” in October 2012. Woody has agreed to address some of our local Carolina Clubs, and we eagerly look forward to engaging him in other ways.
Concluding his news conference remarks, with some emotion, Woody observed: “I can’t begin to explain the feeling I get every time a visually handicapped fan walked up to me, shook my hand and thanked me for helping them see the game.”
We’ll all forever remember “throw away to Worthy, throw away to Worthy … the Tar Heels are going to win the national championship” (1982); “technical foul, technical foul on Michigan! They’re out of time-outs” (1993); and “Go where you go and do what you do.”We’ll be forever grateful for the consistent professionalism with which he brought us joy on “a lot of Saturday afternoons and cold winter nights” allowing us each to “see” Carolina men’s basketball and football through his voice.
We look forward to listening to Jones Angell ’01, who has sat beside Woody for six years. How sweet the sound Woody’s Tar Heel voice has been, and how thankful we are to have shared those 1,805 Carolina football and men’s basketball games with him.
Jean, thank you for sharing Woody with us all these years.
Woody, write that book, lower your golf handicap, enjoy those grandchildren, travel and know how grateful we are for the exemplary way you’ve represented your alma mater.
Yours at Carolina,
Douglas S. Dibbert ’70
For more, see “To Paint a Canvas,” beginning on page 28 of this issue; Class Quotes, on page 78; and share your thoughts at alumni.unc.edu/Woody_Durham and on the GAA’s Facebook page at alumni.unc.edu/Facebook.