Hall of Fame Honorees
Longtime dean of Atlanta sportswriters Furman Bisher covered the Masters, Kentucky Derby, and the Georgia-Georgia Tech football game more than 50 times each, and until his retirement in 2009, he was in the writers’ booth for every Super Bowl except the very first in 1967. Honored by his colleagues and revered by the many young writers he mentored, Bisher anchored the sports desk of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for nearly sixty years and witnessed the rise of professional sports in Georgia.
The son of Chisolm E. and Mamie (Morris) Bisher, James Furman Bisher was born Nov. 4, 1918 in Denton, North Carolina. His father owned and operated an ice business, and later a hosiery mill, in Denton, and served a term as town mayor in 1938. That year Furman Bisher earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began editing the sports page of The Lumberton Voice, a first small step in what became a remarkable seventy-year career.
In the 1940s Bisher worked for North Carolina newspapers and served as a U.S. Naval officer (1943-46) in the Pacific during World War II. In 1950 he left the Charlotte News for Georgia, where he joined The Atlanta Constitution as sports editor. In 1957 he replaced The Atlanta Journal’s retiring sports editor, Ed Danforth, and continued in that post for the next half-century.
As the Journal’s sports editor Bisher covered Atlanta’s arrival as a “major league” professional sports venue. The building of Atlanta Stadium, which opened in 1965, and the relocation there of the Braves baseball team (from Milwaukee) is chronicled in Bisher’s book Miracle in Atlanta. Other books that Bisher published while he was working as Atlanta’s premier sportswriter include books about the Atlanta Falcons football team and about the annual Masters Tournament, whose home is the Augusta (Georgia) National Golf Club. Bisher also co-wrote the first biography of the Atlanta Braves’ superstar right fielder Henry Aaron.
Decades of Furman Bisher’s Atlanta newspaper stories have been compiled in several volumes and numerous anthologies. His stories and columns appeared frequently in national magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Sport, True, Sports Illustrated, and The Sporting News. A writer who was regularly featured in sportswriting anthologies, Bisher’s byline appeared in Best Sports Stories of the Year alone a remarkable twenty-three times.
Bisher received the Georgia state Associated Press’s Sports Writing Award eighteen times, and he was named Georgia Sportswriter of the Year a remarkable nineteen times. He is an inductee of the National Sportscaster and Sportswriters Hall of Fame (1989), the International Golf Writers Hall of Fame (1989), the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (1990), the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame (1995), and the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame (2006).
After his official retirement in 2009, Bisher continued to write occasionally for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and cover golf tournaments up to the time of his death of a heart attack in 2012 at the age of 93.
In Bisher’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution obituary, Bisher’s friend and former senior editor Jim Minter said of him, "He put more quality words on newsprint than any other writer in the last half of the 20th century." In six decades, Minter said, "He never wrote a bad column."
The following works written by Furman Bisher are held by the UGA Special Collections Libraries:
With a Southern Exposure. New York, T. Nelson, 1962.
Strange but True Baseball Stories. New York: Random House, 1966
Miracle in Atlanta. Cleveland, OH: World Pub. Co., 1966.
The Birth of a Legend: Arnold Palmer's Golden Year, 1960. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972.
"Aaron, r.f." Cleveland, OH: World Pub. Co., 1968. Revised edition: Aaron. New York: Crowell, 1974.
The Atlanta Falcons: Violence and Victory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973.
The Masters: Augusta Revisited. Birmingham, AL.: Oxmoor House, 1976.
The Furman Bisher Collection. Dallas, TX: Taylor Pub., 1989.
Atlanta's Half-Century: As Seen Through the Eyes of Columnists. Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1997.
Thankful. Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1997.
Furman Bisher: Face to Face. Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing, 2005.
The University of Georgia's Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Athens, Georgia, holds a substantial collection of Furman Bisher's papers, including notebooks, clippings, correspondence, and printed materials documenting his career.