Haywood Harris, longtime UT assistant AD, dies

Haywood Harris, back, and Gus Manning.

Photo by UT Sports Information

Haywood Harris, back, and Gus Manning.

Haywood Harris, who promoted, wrote about and enjoyed an association with University of Tennessee athletics for nearly 50 years, has died.

Mr. Harris, who oversaw the UT Athletic Department’s sports information office and served as an assistant athletic director from 1961 to his retirement in 2000, died Wednesday afternoon at his home in Knoxville. He was 80.

Funeral arrangements at Rose Mortuary-Mann Heritage Chapel are pending.

Mr. Harris continued to work in the athletic department as an assistant athletic director on a part-time basis after his retirement. That lasted until he suffered a stroke in November on the morning of UT’s homecoming game against Memphis, which finally kept him from keeping his office hours as the UT Athletics Historian and from lending his unmistakable voice in the Neyland Stadium press box to identify players and provide stats.

He and Gus Manning hosted a sports radio show — “The Locker Room” — from 1961 until 2009. It was considered to be the longest-running radio sports show in the country.

“I have lost an incredible friend,” said Manning, who was succeeded by Harris. “Haywood and I have enjoyed a wonderful friendship of tremendous esteem and respect for more than a half century. Haywood was extremely intelligent and humorous. He loved his family, friends and especially his political party. And he detested the New York Yankees.

“Haywood played golf but said it was a waste of time. He did enjoy cards — mainly the game of Tong — and breakfast at Long’s. Haywood was one of my best friends for many years.”

Mr. Harris, a 1951 UT graduate, worked at the Charlotte Observer and as a Knoxville Journal sportswriter before starting to work for UT as Alumni Office field secretary in 1959. When athletic director Gen. Robert R. Neyland promoted Manning to ticket manager, he convinced Harris to be Manning’s replacement.

He was inducted into COSIDA’s Hall of Fame in 1984 and received it’s top award, in honor of Arch Ward, 1n 1991. He served as secretary of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and was inducted to the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame (1999) and Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame (2006).

Mr. Harris was born in Blount County on Aug. 26, 1929, but he lived his boyhood days in Knoxville and attended Knoxville High School, which just last week honored him as one of its top 100 outstanding graduates.

“Smart. (Haywood was) smarter than the rest of us,” longtime Vols announcer John Ward said. “But smart didn’t stand in the way of Haywood’s putting people and his profession first. Perhaps more times than we’ll ever know, a smart suggestion from Haywood to higher-ups helped create the positive image the University of Tennessee enjoys today among people from all walks of life.

“Haywood didn’t ask for credit; didn’t want it. He simply did what a really smart person does — help other people.”

In 1982, two years before Harris was inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame, Inside Sports listed him among the top five SIDs in America. Inside Sports said of Harris: “Those who work regularly with him describe him as gentle, considerate and low-key, which distinguishes him from his peers. He could teach a course to other SIDs on running an efficient department. If he has a fault, it’s that he’s too honest. He never says anything bad about Tennessee, but he also will not say anything good unless it’s deserved.”

Mr. Harris told the late Ted Riggs, a former News Sentinel sportswriter, “I think it’s important to be at your own school (he graduated from UT), so you can feel that basic loyalty to your alma mater. I’d hate to be doing the same job somewhere else.”

He married the former Carolyn Jo West in 1979. They have three children — Mrs. Carol Mayshark, Jimmy and Mike — as well as four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mr. Harris was a deacon at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, loved to play tennis and enjoyed reading, gardening and country music — especially Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton.

He was an avid jogger while at UT, and he usually could be seen trotting around campus during his lunch hour. When he was out of town with UT athletic teams, he always seemed to fit a jogging session into his schedule.

While he enjoyed UT’s success in athletics — national championships in football, track, swimming, and cross country and SEC titles in those sports plus basketball, tennis and golf — he experienced glitches, too.

He told Riggs of the time he was with the Vols basketball team at Florida, and Mr. Harris was keeping UT’s scorebook. A Florida fan heckled UT coach Ray Mears when the coach argued that his team should be shooting 1-and-1 freethrows. Mr. Harris said he was distracted by the fan and forgot to mark the foul in his scorebook, then Mears asked officials to check Harris’ book. Of course Mears lost he argument and wasn’t happy.

Fortunately, Mr. Harris said, the Vols won by a comfortable margin.

Another occurred with the football team in Nashville in 1964 when Doug Dickey was football coach. Mr. Harris said he arranged for a bus to pick up the team at the Nashville airport to take players to the motel. Once everyone was aboard the bus wouldn’t start.

Mr. Harris said Dickey was quite miffed, then asked if he had checked the fan belt. Mr. Harris said he never knew if Dickey was kidding.

His work took him to the great arenas of this country — Madison Square Garden, Orange Bowl, Super Dome, Cotton Bowl, West Point, Rupp Arena, the Astrodome — and traveled to almost every state in the country, including Hawaii.

And he also witnessed the Vols’ wealth of athletic talent in all sports, as well as that of their opponents. Regardless of the sport, Harris enjoyed the moment — and witnessed many great ones. Among them were 33 bowl games.

“I have been privileged to work under one of the most respected men in the sports information field and also be a part of a time in collegiate sports history that most likely will never occur again,” UT SID Bud Ford said.

“Since 1950, the job of the Sports Information Director and promoting men’s sports at the University of Tennessee has been held by a graduate of UT: Lindsey Nelson in 1950, Gus Manning from 1951-60 and Haywood Harris from 1961-2000. “If you add in the 10 years I have been privileged to serve in that position, that is a total of 60 years at one school by alumni who totally dedicated themselves to the university in every way. No one could have asked for a better role model than I have had while working under the guidance and direction of Haywood Harris. It’s tough to put my feelings about him into words — that was his specialty.”

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Comments » 47

britt writes:

Gonna miss you Haywood. Thanks for all you did over the years

DaddyVol writes:

May Heavenly Father bless this man and his family.

God speed Haywood...always a VOLUNTEER!

RockyTop1_old writes:

He WILL be missed...a sad day for the VOL Nation! GO VOLS!!!

FWBVol writes:

I worked for Haywood in the Sports Information Department as a student assistant, and I can honestly say that Haywood was one of a kind, the finest kind.

His service to the University of Tennessee athletic department and the SEC will be felt of a long time to come.

Farewell, My Friend, until we meet again in Heaven.

Randy Dickson

Tnvolsfan4ever (Inactive) writes:

Haywood was a Vol through and through! We will miss him. A sad day for Vol fans everywhere. God bless his family!

rootin4volz writes:

Wow...We've lost a great one the likes of which Tennessee Athletics may never see again. Rest in Peace, Haywood.

kiddtigger#228291 writes:

So sorry about Mr. Harris. Class act!

richvol writes:

Haywood Harris is a name that will forever be linked to the University of Tennessee. He was,as the article says,a kind and gracious man that devoted his life to the school he loved. May he rest with the Lord.

Mr_Brownstone writes:

God Bless you and your family, Mr. Harris. You will be missed!

Volunatic writes:

RIP, Mr. Harris. You did great work for UT over the years.

VolunteerLifer writes:

I didn't know Haywood Harris, but I sure have heard that name alot over the years. By the way, I agree with him about golf - its a waste of time. But that's why I play it.

orangecountyvols writes:

What a loyal Vol and a fine person. Yes, he and Gus were a real team and were inseparable.

Will never forget all those Locker Room broadcasts before each home game when I arrived in town those mornings. U T will really miss him. Condolences to his family and friends.

Alt_news (Inactive) writes:

I've known Haywood for 29 years. In that time I NEVER heard him say a negative word about another human being's character.

He might question a man's political beliefs, or his sports affinity, but never his character.

And in a culture where curse words are thrown around like commas, I never heard him utter a single vulgarity. Not even H-E double toothpicks.

RJ_Vol writes:

He was a class act. I knew of Haywood through one of his family members. What a great person. He will be missed.

nocleats writes:

Talk about "giving your all for Tennessee". Mr Harris went above and beyond! The SEC as well as the NCAA have lost a true gentleman in the sports world. Go Vols!!

RockyTopVolFan writes:

Haywood will be missed here in Rocky Top for a long, long, time!
Goodbye Tennessee Friend.

Smokey91 writes:

"Heywire Harris" we use to call him when I was a kid, but we all really loved that guy. He and Gus were always so good to us. Have great memories of them.

give_him_6 writes:

The Tennessee family has lost one of its' giants today. They have filled his office but will never be able to fill his shoes.

May God bless and keep the Harris family. RIP Haywood..truly a great Volunteer!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Sad to read about this. He was truly a great Vol legend. Prayers to the family.

MissUT writes:

A sad day for the Volunteer family. Haywood Harris is a Tennessee legend. RIP...

rockytopatl writes:

Haywood was a true gentleman, a loyal Vol, and may well have been the best sports information director of all time. He also had a wonderful sense of humor. He will be sorely missed.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

Wow. This sucks. He and Gus (and Lauricella) were the continual link back to the days of General Neyland. This truly is a sad day for Volunteers.

If you haven't read Gus Manning and Haywood Harris' book "Six Seasons Remembered" what are you doing??? Go get it TONIGHT. This is a true-blood Volunteer who will be sorely missed.

This quote from Haywood from the above article says it all......
“I think it’s important to be at your own school (he graduated from UT), so you can feel that basic loyalty to your alma mater. I’d hate to be doing the same job somewhere else.”

jrc25 writes:

I was honored to work with Haywood for the past 20 years. If all people could treat their fellow man as Haywood did everyday regardless of their title this would be a much better world. You will be missed Haywood and never forgotten.

Ringside writes:

Seemed like he lived the life he would live again if he could. RIP sir!

tnsportsman writes:

You can't say Tennessee Volunteers without thinking of Haywood Harris! Mr. Harris was a true Volunteer. The VolNation and our University lost a great man.

Our prayers go out to the Harris Family. Thank you Haywood for all you did for UT!

God Bless, RIP

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

POTSVol (Inactive) writes:

I had the opportunity to wait on Mr. Harris at the bank I work at. I always enjoyed seeing and talking to him. RIP

VOLinAthensGA writes:

We love you and will miss you, Haywood.

'94

RoadTrip writes:

A true Vol all the way. Prayers are lifted for all of his family and friends.

Chartervol writes:

The torch dims. We were all touched by Haywood Harris.

KNS moderators: No trolls tonight. Family only.

Dan Batey

dvols writes:

Thank You Mr Harris!

Drpippin writes:

Sad to see UT icons like Ray Mears, Andy Kozar, Haywood Harris passing on. The retirement of John Ward was a death like experience. The guard is changing as it must in time. Hopefully the present and future will give birth to such enduring memories as these men did.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

in response to Drpippin:

Sad to see UT icons like Ray Mears, Andy Kozar, Haywood Harris passing on. The retirement of John Ward was a death like experience. The guard is changing as it must in time. Hopefully the present and future will give birth to such enduring memories as these men did.

Amen to that!

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

I remember late in that National Championship game against Florida St the short eulogy Keith Jackson gave George Cafego was goosebump-inducing.

Before that 13-0 season, George in his last days told Fulmer to keep the horses headed right, for he would be cheering on The Orange in Heaven.

Then Keith Jackson said, "Well George, you must be smiling right alongside Neyland right about now".

Haywood Harris now joins that cheering section for alltime....

RichmondKyVol writes:

Haywood Harris was a wonder human being. There has never been a better sports information guy. When I applied for press credentials to cover UK-UT games in Knoxville for the paper here in Richmond, he extended me every courtesy and never forgot I was a UT alum. When Kentucky and Louisville finally met at Stokely Athletic Center in the NCAA Tournament, I thought there was no chance for a small paper like mine to get a press pass for what people here called The Dream Game. But, he called me and offered one. Haywood Harris is another reason why it's great to be a Tennessee Vol.

kazoo writes:

Haywood Harris was a true gentleman and a Vol giant--like so many of his generation; a quiet, behind-the-scenes pro who was one of the most likable men I ever met. My father, a Vol football player, knew him well. As someone said smartly above, he was born to be SID at UT. A sad day, and there have been more than a few of them in recent months as the last group of men associated with Neyland and the '51 national title pass away.

volaholic45 writes:

RIP

CRFVols writes:

Met him a couple times, very nice man. I believe he told me he was in the Navy....can anyone confirm that?

vol88 writes:

Rest in Peace Mr. Harris. A true Volunteer.

easleychuck writes:

Thanks, Mr.Harris. Deepest sympathy to all of his loved ones.

CrankE writes:

God please bless the Harris family in their loss. What a great person and a great ambassador for UT. What a privilege it has been to call Harris a Volunteer.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Farewell, true Volunteer.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons:

I remember late in that National Championship game against Florida St the short eulogy Keith Jackson gave George Cafego was goosebump-inducing.

Before that 13-0 season, George in his last days told Fulmer to keep the horses headed right, for he would be cheering on The Orange in Heaven.

Then Keith Jackson said, "Well George, you must be smiling right alongside Neyland right about now".

Haywood Harris now joins that cheering section for alltime....

Very well stated.

rockytop4ever writes:

Hate to hear this news. Haywood was a UT legend and always will be near and dear to hearts of UT fans around the world. God Bless.

volboy81 writes:

Thank you, Haywood, for all you did for the University of Tennessee through the years. The Hill is a better place because you were there. God Bless your family and may you Rest In Peace.

AlpharettaVol writes:

As sports editor of the Orange and White (predecessor of the Daily Beacon) I called on Haywood Harris on a regular basis for his perspective on things. He was always receptive to my calls and responded in a gentlemanly manner. I consider it a privilege to have known him while at UT. Over the years I had the occasion to see him at various Tennessee functions and he always greeted me warmly, even though it may have been five or more years since we had last seen each other. He was the perfect example of what we want our graduates to be as they move through life. The university will miss him very much.

rusty_shackleford writes:

Everyone who claims to be a "True Vol" should measure their loyalty against Mr. Harris. He loved the university and will be greatly missed. A gentleman!

ScotsIrishAmerican writes:

One of the nicest people ever. Haywood was the consummate professional and a true gentleman. He will certainly be missed.

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