DALTON, Ga. — Larry Fleming, a former sports editor of the Daily Citizen-News who was praised for his skill, work ethic and humanity, passed away on Friday at his home following a brief illness. He was 75.
Fleming, who was sports editor of the Daily Citizen-News for 11 years, retiring in 2010, was a member of the Tennessee Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame, and was named Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year in 1987. Before coming to Dalton he had been a beat writer for the University of Tennessee football and basketball teams and also covered the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league baseball team.
"Larry was the consummate professional and a great person to work with," Daily Citizen-News City Editor Victor Miller said. "He had a wealth of knowledge about sports of all kinds and was always willing to help out where needed in the newsroom and the sports department. He was a tremendous asset to our newspaper and a warm and kind friend."
A native of Athens, Tennessee, Fleming began his career with the Daily Post-Athenian and later was a sports writer for the Chattanooga Times and wrote stories for Chattanoogan.com.
At the time of his retirement from the Daily Citizen-News in July 2010, Fleming wrote a column titled "It’s been a nice ride through six decades."
In it, he wrote about football games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California; basketball games in Madison Square Garden in New York City; and phone interviews with Charlie Finley, "the flamboyant Oakland Athletics owner."
He recounted how he had spent time with such sports giants as Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, Johnny Majors, Tom Osborne, Bear Bryant and Bobby Knight.
He mentioned, "The spine-tingling experience of walking out the tunnel toward the sidelines at Notre Dame. Run-ins with Steve Spurrier."
And "watching Herschel Walker run" and "becoming a better friend to (former Dalton High School football coach) Bill Chappell. Getting to know Bill Napier and his sports-minded family. ... Following Dalton High’s drive to the state championship football game in 2001. ... Being around Deck Cheatham and enjoying the peaceful bliss that is The Farm Golf Course. ... Taking advantage of the statistical brilliance of Bob Campbell, the ultimate ambassador for Murray County sports. ... Watching, at times up close, Saul Raisin’s comeback from death’s door after a horrible cycling accident to make a significant contribution to help victims of serious brain injuries. ... Cultivating really good working relationships with a bunch of outstanding local coaches ... "
He noted he got his start when "Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio came to Athens on a promotional tour and my high school baseball coach, the late J.B. 'Ace' Adams, knowing of my allegiance to the Yankees, arranged for me to meet DiMaggio. My hometown newspaper, The Daily Post-Athenian, asked that I write a first-person piece about that experience. I agreed and delivered it in January 1961."
"What a ride it has been," he wrote.
The person who succeeded Fleming as Daily Citizen-News sports editor was Marty Kirkland. He once noted, "Working for Larry was an honor, a privilege and a good learning experience."
Kirkland called Fleming "supportive and wise and always out in front of the charge when it came to doing the hardest and most thankless work for the department."
At the time of his induction into the Tennessee Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame, Fleming called it "a great honor. I think anyone in any profession works to do the best job possible and that’s what I strived for during my 43-year career as a sports writer."
He strived for it, and achieved it.
Fleming is survived by his wife of 55 years, Donna; son, Dustin (Liz) Fleming; and two grandchildren, Austin and Madi Fleming.
There will be a private family service at his request. Arrangements are by Heritage Funeral Home, 7454 E. Brainerd Road in Chattanooga. You can visit www.heritagechattanooga.com to share condolences with his family.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to cystic fibrosis for research.