˘ I am just about the last witness to a lot of things.
People say to me, “Well, I guess you can tell anything you
˘ I had some nice moments with Bob Jones. I met him
at my first Masters as a 17-year-old reporter for the Gaston
[N.C.] Gazette in 1935 when Grantland Rice introduced me.
About 10 years later, Jones hosted Johnny Bulla and me at
East Lake. Bulla knew hypnotism, and he put me in a trance
telling me Jones had his tie and that I had to get it back.
So we played and we took our showers and started getting
dressed, and I said, “Wait a minute, Bob, that’s Bulla’s tie.”
Well, Jones had doubted Bulla could hypnotize, so he’s in on
the thing, and he says, “No, it’s mine. Stop bothering me.”
And I grabbed that tie and started pulling. That’s when
Bulla snaps his fingers and breaks the spell, and I see Jones
laughing with my hands around his neck. I was absolutely
shocked at what I’d done.
˘ Mahatma Gandhi had an aura of total serenity. I met
him through his son, Devdas, with whom I worked on the
military newspaper in New Delhi during World War II.
When I walked into his house, Gandhi was writing with a
pen on a little table. Tea was served, and he talked to me
for 20 minutes. He wanted to know where I grew up, what
my father’s job as a rural mail carrier was like, what kind
of animals we had, what kind of crops we grew. He walked
me to the door and said, “I just want you to know, John, it
was fun having you here. And you are welcome any time,
announced or unannounced.” From that moment I had a lot
of confidence in the presence of the great.
˘ I met Frank sinatra just once, in the early ’40s at
Toots Shor’s in Manhattan. I didn’t really recognize him,
and because a lot of writers went to Shor’s, I asked him if he
was a writer. He said, “No, I’m a singer.”
˘ I had some singing talent. I was a tenor, and I took
voice lessons for four years from a Dr. Jacoby at Greensboro
College. During my Army service, he took me to St. Louis to
see Jeanette MacDonald. After she monitored my singing,
she offered—once my military commitment was over—to
work with me at no fee and get me enough bit parts in movies to get a career going. Well, my life changed and I forgot
about Hollywood. I have no regret. I mean, which turn do
you take, the left or the right?
˘ After I began working at CBS in New York, Red Barber
was my guide as far as general broadcasting style. A good
broadcaster is like a good umpire—you don’t even know he’s
there. Edward R. Murrow hired me. He was a great thinker.
He showed real courage in taking on Joseph McCarthy.
˘ One time [Sam] Snead said to me, “Let’s go fishing with
Williams today.” We drove down the Florida coast to where
Ted lived and went out in a long canoe. While they caught
fish, I just listened. They talked about golf, fishing, baseball,
at the highest level. They were absolutely level, two equal
gods. One of the best days I ever had.
˘ I made friends with introverts. [Ben] Hogan, [Joe]
DiMaggio, Cliff Roberts. I was into oratory even as a child,
and I guess my gift of gab broke down their walls. Once I
was playing at Augusta with Cliff and we got to the 15th
hole and I said something about wanting to be cremated
and having my ashes spread in the pond that guards the
green. Cliff acted very put-off, saying in that deep voice,
“Augusta National is a golf course, not a cemetery.” A few
years later Cliff shot himself, and when I saw his secretary
I asked where Cliff was buried. She said, “Oh, didn’t you
know? He was cremated and had his ashes spread over the
pond on 15.” So I’ve got to change my plans.
˘ DiMaggio liked to sit in the tower when I was broadcasting tournaments. He said, “Almost nobody comes up for
an autograph when you are 20 feet up in the air.” My wife
Peggy loved dancing with DiMaggio. She said he just floated.
˘ I was married to Peggy Derr for 49 years. She won the
women’s club championship at Upper Montclair 12 times.
She died in 1991. Had cancer. After she decided to stop the
treatments, we spent a marvelous final year. One day she told
me she wanted to play nine more holes, and we went over to
National GC. The ninth hole is a par 3, and she hit a beautiful
shot to six feet. She expected to make that putt, and she did.
˘ I asked snead, “How do you concentrate?” He said,
“Very simple. Next time you get on the first tee, you say to
yourself, ‘I’m in sudden death.’ You can’t let anything slip if
you’re in sudden death.”
˘ when I was 10, I had a lamb that I thought was my pet.
One day, I came home and learned it had been slaughtered.
From then on, I never could eat anything that had to do
with sheep. At Carnoustie in 1953, I was having lunch with
Hogan and they had mutton stew. After I told Ben my story,
he said, “They had mutton stew two days ago, and you
seemed to enjoy it.” He got a terrible kick out of that.
˘ I have bladder cancer and get treatment. But I love
going in to see my nurse. She says, “Take off your pants and
get over here.”
˘ My only regret is that Snead never won the Open. I’ve
kept the letters he sent me from the road over all the years.
He signed all of them, “Always, Jackson” in his perfect
96, FORme R GOLF BROADcASteR, PiNehURSt, N.c. ˘ intervie wed by Jaime Diaz, Photographed by Bruce Deboer