Harry King

Dozens Of Teams Turn Out For Tournament

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Jim ElderColumn By Harry King
Arkansas News Bureau

When the peaches were just so at the pick-and-pay orchard, Jim Elder would drive half an hour to partake.

He plucked pounds with care, gingerly placing them in sacks for the ride home. Once there, he would arrange them on every flat surface available, making certain they did not touch each other and bruise.

Once they had been assigned white sacks from the orchard, he would sometimes drive 100 miles to deliver them to relatives and golfing pals.

Elder did everything that way, the right way, with meticulous devotion to detail. That’s why the Arkansas football statistics he supplied play-by-play man Paul Eells were impeccable and that’s why he was always so prepared while doing unheard of double duty during radio drive time — both in the mornings and the afternoons.

In addition to his numerous sports reports per day, he had a sports talk show long before they became a forum for recruiting speculation and second guessing.

In town for a promotion of sorts, Willie Mays was scheduled to do 20 minutes with Elder but stayed for about 90 minutes. The call-in questions were thoughtful and intelligent — Elder would not tolerate less — and the host was knowledgeable and prepared. It never crossed Elder’s mind that people listened because his expertise, work ethic and love for sports oozed through the radio.

Fastidious about the quality of any product he hawked and unconcerned about talent fees, he went on-site to check out the work of a charitable organization. Convinced that the cause was a good one, he fibbed about his fee so that the group could get more for its money.

Because of his days as a minor league umpire, he was unflinching in his defense of all officials. On a trip to Hot Springs, the son of a friend once got him riled by asking if he had seen the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers the night before. When Elder said yes, the teen-ager set the hook by asking Elder if he thought the NBA refs protected Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. He was more than a minute into a diatribe before he realized he had been set up.

Anybody who was around Elder for any length of time has a favorite story. Like the man who was in the back seat on a return trip from Oaklawn Park. Trying a shortcut, the driver took Westinghouse Road to Highway 70. At the stop sign, a car was reluctant to turn left across a stream of Little Rock-bound headlights. After minutes, Elder got out, and played traffic cop in the middle of the highway, stopping cars so the lead vehicle could turn left and his ride could make a right.

That was years ago, but that memory is one reason the guy in the back seat takes a day off from work and forks over $50 to play in a golf tournament that helps support the Good Sport Fund that bears Elder’s name.

Since Elder’s death in 1998, the fund has given about $200,000 for scholarships and other projects for Arkansas youth.

Material from the fund says “Jim touched all kinds of people every day, always in a positive way. He took great delight in helping others, and even greater pride in their accomplishments.”

Some golfers drove from Fayetteville on Monday, unsure who was on their team for the tournament at Eagle Hill. Like all but a handful of teams, the foursome put together by the man in the car for the Oaklawn trip had no chance to win.

That’s not the reason they played. They played because of Jim Elder.

Copyright © Arkansas News Bureau, 2003 - 2005

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