Former Cincinnati Post sports editor and columnist Pat Harmon, who was president of the Football Writers Association of America in 1984 and later received the organization’s Bert McGrane Award, died on July 28 at the age of 97.
Harmon also served as the National Football Foundation’s historian for 20 years, from 1986 to 2006.
“Pat Harmon’s passion and talent for covering sports created a lasting legacy,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “He honed his skills during an incredible 70 year career, and the NFF greatly benefited from the depth of his knowledge during his 20 years as our historian. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as we mourn his loss and celebrate his life.”
Harmon began his career at age 17 in 1933, covering events for the Freeport (Ill.) Journal Standard during the Depression. He would hitchhike to games, sleep on wrestling mats in gyms of teams he covered, and break into the food lines of teams. He later found a home in Cincinnati and served as a sports editor and columnist for the Cincinnati Post for more than 34 years, starting in 1951. After retiring in 1986, he started his 20-year tenure as historian of The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame.
“It was a real treat to have Pat Harmon as the NFF Historian,” said former NFF President Bob Casciola. “His honesty and genuine personality helped him capture the story because people really trusted him and opened up to him. His incredible wealth of knowledge made him unique, and he had a special touch as a sportswriter and storyteller. We really benefited from his insights, and all of us who worked with him realized it was a true privilege.”
In addition to his stints with Freeport Journal Standard and Cincinnati Post, Harmon wrote for the Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette in 1934, when he became a student at the University of Illinois. There, he married his wife Anne and built a strong reputation before spending four years at the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette from 1947 to 1951.
Harmon’s illustrious career boasted interviews with countless legends, including Vince Lombardi, Pete Rose, Casey Stengel, Arnold Palmer, Eddie Robinson, John Wooden, Bear Bryant, Jack Nicklaus, Woody Hayes, Paul Brown and Joe Louis. Harmon may be best known for inaugurating the selection of the Illinois All-State high school football and basketball teams.
The FWAA honored Harmon in 2004 with the Bert McGrane Award, which is bestowed on a member who has performed great service to the organization and the game of college football. The NFF also honored Harmon with the NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award in 2004.
Born on Sept. 2, 1916, Harmon and his wife Anne had 11 children.