I just heard the news that James Dunaway passed away on Sunday night. I’ll always consider him to be one of my greatest mentors — as well as a good friend.
For nearly six decades, Jim was one of the most influential writers on international athletics, or track and field. A regular correspondent for dozens of newspapers and publications, including The New York Times, he continued to work until quite recently. He was 87.
Jim was gracious and helpful to a fault when I began to focus my reporting career on track and field. It felt a little strange, less than half a decade later, when I would work as his editor, handing him assignments. Well after I shifted my primary professional focus away from sport, we remained in touch.
This is Jim at his 80th birthday party which we celebrated in Beijing on the eve of the 2008 Olympics. It was the 14th straight summer Games he’d covered, a streak that began in 1956 in Melbourne. He enjoyed telling stories of his time aboard the very slow boat he took to get there, part of a journey that went around the world. And of his hotel room in Moscow being searched regularly during the boycotted 1980 Games where he was one of only about a dozen Americans covering the event.
Jim had lots of stories.
We talked as much about athletics as we did about travel and jazz. And wine, too. I’m feeling profoundly saddened by his passing but extremely grateful and humbled that our respective roads in life crossed.