Furman Bisher, a well-regarded sportswriter and editor, served for fifty-nine years as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports editor. He was also a Sporting News columnist and the contributor of hundreds of articles for Sports Illustrated, the Saturday Evening Post, and many other national magazines.
Author of several books, including a biography of baseball great Hank Aaron, Bisher was named in a 1961 Time article as one of the nation’s five best columnists. During the course of his career he covered the Masters Tournament in Augusta each year, the Kentucky Derby from 1950 on, and every Super Bowl but the first. He watched the first NASCAR race as an editor in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he is credited with helping to bring the Braves baseball team, Atlanta’s first professional sports team, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Atlanta. Bisher chronicled the Braves acquisition in his second book, Miracle in Atlanta (1966).
James Furman Bisher was born on November 4, 1918, in Denton, North Carolina, to Mamie Morris and Chisholm Bisher. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he began his career at the Lumberton Voice in North Carolina in 1938. In 1954 he married Montyne Harrell, with whom he had three sons. Eventually the couple divorced, and Bisher married Lynda Landon in 1991.
Bisher became an editor in 1940 for the Charlotte News, where he worked for the rest of the decade, excepting four years of military service during World War II (1941-45). In 1950 he left the Charlotte News to become sports editor for the Atlanta Constitution. In 1957 he joined the Atlanta Journal and the Sunday Journal-Constitution as sports editor and columnist, and he continued to write for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He also became a columnist for the Sporting News.
After his retirement in 2009, Bisher occasionally wrote columns for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and he continued to cover the Masters Tournament. In early 2010 he began writing as a guest columnist for Southern Community Newspapers, the parent company of seven local newspapers in Georgia.
Over the years Bisher scored a number of memorable journalistic coups. His first occurred in 1949, when “Shoeless” Joe Jackson gave Bisher and Sport Magazine his only interview since 1919, the year Jackson was ousted from baseball in the “Black Sox” scandal.
Bisher played golf with Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen, among many others. Covering the Masters in 1954, he watched in awe as amateur Billy Joe Patton “laughed his way” through the course, shooting a hole in one on his way to nearly snatching the green jacket from Sam Snead. Patton lost by one stroke, and Bisher later recounted the golfer’s wistful comment, Bisher’s favorite golf quote in all his years of writing about the sport: “I could have handled the fame, I could have handled the money. But I doubt if I could have handled the women.”
Bisher’s many awards and accolades include membership in the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame, the International Golf Writers Hall of Fame, the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, as well as the Red Smith Award for contributions to journalism. His work was anthologized in Best Sports Stories of the Year numerous times, and in 1996 he won the PGA Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award. In 2009 the Georgia Writers Association awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bisher died in Atlanta on March 18, 2012, after suffering a heart attack.