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A Loss for Words

Popular columnist Bob Terrell dies

Bob Terrell ’51, a Sylva native and beloved regional writer, died May 31 in Arizona, where he had moved weeks earlier to be closer to family.

Bob Terrell ’51

Beloved author Bob Terrell ’51, a Sylva native, died in May.
Photo courtesy the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Terrell, who was 80, wrote about Western North Carolina people, places and happenings for more than 60 years. He authored more than 75 books – many on the shelves in WCU’s Hunter Library – on a range of topics, including sports. Baseball in particular was his passion.

Terrell began his career in 1945 at the Sylva Herald. While a student at Western Carolina (then called Western Carolina Teacher’s College), Terrell served as sports editor both for the Western Carolinian student newspaper and the yearbook.

In 1949, while still a student at WCU, Terrell began working as a sports reporter for the Asheville Citizen (it later merged with the city’s other daily to become the Asheville Citizen-Times). “He would go to school, then get on the bus, be at the newspaper at 4 p.m., stay until the paper was out, get home by 3, and be up at 8 a.m. and do it all again,” his son Bob Terrell Jr. said in a newspaper interview. Terrell became the Citizen’s sports editor in 1956, and in 1967 launched the human interest column for which he was best known.

Steve White ’67, WCU sports historian and retired sports information director, began reading Terrell as a child in the 1950s. “As much as anything else, I became a Catamount fan … from reading Bob, because he covered everything that Western did,” said White, who later came to know Terrell personally and considered him a mentor.

Terrell helped shape WNC sports. He worked behind the scenes to bring Minor League Baseball’s Tourists back to Asheville in the late 1950s. In the early 1960s, Terrell persuaded Catamount basketball coach Jim Gudger ’48 to consider recruiting Henry Logan, a player from Asheville. With the blessing of WCU officials, Gudger did recruit Logan, who became the first black athlete in the Southeast to play intercollegiate athletics at a predominately white institution.

“Bob always treated us like we were human beings,” Logan said in a newspaper interview. “He treated us like basketball players. He didn’t see any color.”

Terrell’s experiences included witnessing atomic bomb detonations while serving in the Army in the 1950s; a close association with the Rev. Billy Graham; and travel to 35 countries, including dozens of trips to the Holy Land. He requested his ashes be scattered in both Israel and Jackson County.