FAYETTEVILLE – Greenwood lost one of its finest native sons and Arkansas journalism in general and track and field journalism in particular lost a champion with last Thursday’s passing of Jerry McConnell at 92 in Greenwood.
So excelling in football at Greenwood to be offered a University of Arkansas scholarship, McConnell instead enlisted in the Army then upon his 1948 discharges he majored in journalism at the UA.
Upon his 1951 graduation, McClnnell joined the Arkansas Gazette under sports editor Orville Henry. McConnell soon was put in charge of the desk and the Gazette’s high school sports coverage. His coverage and championing of track and field, including the state’s first compiling of best performances during the season, created in 1958 the annual Meet of Champions and a 1995 charter member induction into the Arkansas Track and Field Hall of Fame.
McConnell transferred his talents to news and administration in 1971 as managing editor of the Arkansas Democrat but eventually couldn’t resist returning to sports.
In 1978 McConnell in Oklahoma City became the executive sports editor of the Daily Oklahoman and Oklahoma City Times.
During McConnell’s 13-year tenure with the Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City hosted the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
It was my privilege while covering John McDonnell’s great Razorbacks teams winning NCAA Indoor titles in Oklahoma City to become well acquainted with Jerry always leading the Daily Oklahoman’s track coverage. So unassuming and pleasant, you’d never known Jerry had covered Olympic Games in Los Angeles and Seoul – until you read his track and stories and appreciated how expertly he knew the sport and its athletes.
Jerry and his late wife Jo, wed to Jerry for some 66 years, retired back home to Greenwood in 1992. His “retirement” was most active. It included being a founding member of the Greenwood Education Foundation and its president for five years plus service as President of the Sigma Chi Arkansas Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 1996 McConnell was called to Olympic service. He was put in charge of the working press room for the Main Press Center of the Olympic Games in Atlanta