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Bisher a legend who'll be missed

Furman Bisher had the career others have dreamed of.

He came to Atlanta in 1950 and for the next 62 years, he built -- line by line and column by column -- a reputation unparalleled in sports journalism.

On Sunday at the age of 93, Bisher passed away after complaining of feeling ill. His plans to spend Sunday watching golf were interrupted by an emergency trip to the hospital, where doctors said he suffered a heart attack.

"He put more quality words on newsprint than any other writer in the last half of the 20th century," Jim Minter, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor, told the AJC on Sunday. "He never wrote a bad column."

Minter would know. He worked as Journal executive sports editor under Sports Editor Bisher before moving over the Atlanta Constitution as managing editor. He also had one of the all-time best quips about his boss, as related by another legendary Southern columnist, the late Lewis Grizzard, who also served under Bisher as executive sports editor of the Journal.

Grizzard wrote that in 1974 when Minter took $800,000 in an open car to a crazed man who had kidnapped then editorial page editor Reg Murphy and demanded ransom, he was later asked by reporters what it felt like carrying all that money to the kidnapper, who was later captured. "I felt like Furman Bisher on my way to spring training," Minter said.

Grizzard also may have best summed up what it was like to work for Bisher, who was a classic newspaperman in every sense of the word. "In that (Bisher's) office, Bisher is unbeaten, untied and unscored upon," he wrote.

Bisher covered everything that involved sports, including the Masters, the Triple Crown races, the World Series, the Super Bowl, Wimbledon and Daytona. In 1949, he managed the only interview that was ever given by Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was thrown out of Major League Baseball in the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. Bisher was instrumental in bringing the Braves to Atlanta and received numerous honors over the years, such as the Red Smith Award (sports journalism) and the William D. Richardson Award (Golf Writers Association of America).

It was a storied career.

After his retirement from the AJC in 2009, Bisher found he still had many things to say. For the past three years, The Albany Herald and its sister newspapers have been fortunate to have the observations of this marvelous wordsmith grace our sports pages.

Few people have made an impact on their professions the way that Bisher did. And along the way, he set a standard for sports commentary that many have aspired to, but none have matched.

At the end of many of his columns, Bisher used the word "Selah," a Hebrew word from Psalms that has puzzled many over the years. Some scholars have suggested it means "always," "forever" or "to weigh." Others say it's a musical mark or instruction on the reading of text, such as "stop and listen." We prefer to believe that Bisher was suggesting that his readers take the words he had written, contemplate them and, rather than just accept things without question, form their own opinions.

What is inarguable is Bisher was a giant in sports journalism and a singular talent. He will be missed.

Selah.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board