Longtime AP sports writer Ed Shearer - covered Masters, football, Olympics - dies at 82

Associated Press

Longtime AP sports writer Ed Shearer - covered Masters, football, Olympics - dies at 82

Golf

Longtime AP sports writer Ed Shearer - covered Masters, football, Olympics - dies at 82

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ATLANTA — Ed Shearer, a longtime sports writer with The Associated Press who covered the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, Masters and Hank Aaron’s 715th homer but left his most lasting mark as the “SEC Seer,” a prognosticator of Southern football known throughout the nation, died Monday. He was 82.

Working at the AP for more than 40 years, Shearer covered a range of sports but was most passionate about college football. Shearer parlayed his extensive knowledge into the popular “SEC Seer” column, a fixture in Southern newspapers giving his predicted scores for that weekend’s games in the powerful football conference.

Edgar Kearney Shearer was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and moved frequently throughout that state and neighboring Mississippi during his childhood as the son of a Methodist minister. He eventually settled in Jackson, Louisiana, where he met his high school sweetheart and future wife, Mary Jane. They were married more than 50 years until her death in 2015.

Shearer attended Louisiana Tech, where he studied journalism and covered school sporting events, and left The Times of Shreveport to begin his long career with the AP in the mid-1960s. Shearer transferred to Atlanta in 1969 to become a sports writer, chronicling a wide range of local and national events.

He covered the Summer Olympics in Montreal (1976), Los Angeles (1984) and Atlanta (1996), as well as numerous Masters, several World Series involving the Atlanta Braves in the early 1990s, and the 1994 Super Bowl held at the Georgia Dome. Most notably, he wrote the account that ran on front pages around the nation when Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1974.

Shearer worked at the AP into his 70s, taking young colleagues under his wing and regaling everyone with humorous stories about all the people he met along the way — from Bear Bryant to Vince Dooley to Hammerin’ Hank — all while watching over the AP report with a keen editing eye that routinely picked up dropped words and typos others had missed.

“Ed taught a generation of news people, including me, that came through AP bureaus in the South everything about sports news, from how to formulate a box score to how to write a game story with nothing but a faxed stats sheet to how to deal with a flustered stringer at the ballpark,” said Michael Giarrusso, the AP’s global sports editor who worked with Shearer in the Atlanta bureau. “And he did it all without ever making even the most inexperienced writer feel bad, joking constantly, ignoring complaints from New York all while living on a diet exclusively of jalapeno peppers and Fritos.”

A prolific smoker through much of his life, Shearer was among a hearty group of football writers who took part in the SEC Skywriters tour, hopping aboard a propeller plane for a whirlwind tour of the league’s then-10 member schools before each season. They were able to interview the players and coaches in a relaxed, informal atmosphere — a striking contrast to today’s regimented behemoth known as SEC Media Days — and get a feel for what was really going on in each program.

Terry Taylor, the AP’s sports editor for more than 20 years before her retirement in 2013, said Shearer was a calming presence during her first Masters.

It was 1986 — the year of Jack Nicklaus’ famous victory.

“I still remember walking into the press room at Augusta National for the first time, not sure where I was going and how I would find my colleagues. Then I saw the broad shoulders in the first row and, as I got closer, the cigarette. I didn’t need to see his face,” Taylor said. “The Masters — though in a class by itself — was one of the hundreds of tournaments, championships, playoffs and meets he covered year in and year out in Georgia. It’s hard to imagine anyone connected to sports back then who didn’t know Eddie, an easygoing gentleman who perfected the art of juggling assignments.”

Shearer is survived by three children, Margaret, Laura and Jim, and their spouses, as well as three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for next month at St. Barnabas Anglican Church in suburban Atlanta.

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