Veteran sportscaster Charlie Jones, a familiar voice of NFL games who also served as play-by-play announcer for the 1996 Olympic rowing and paddling events on Lake Lanier, has died. He was 77.
Jones died of a heart attack Thursday at his home in the La Jolla district of San Diego, his longtime agent, Martin Mandel, told The Associated Press.
“Charlie is one of the legends of sports broadcasting starting with covering the first Super Bowl,” Mandel said. “He had a wonderful kettledrum voice. He was known for that and his versatility.”
Jones called the action from the Clarks Bridge Park venue during the Atlanta Games, and often referred to Gainesville’s impressive hospitality during NBC’s broadcasts.
“The people are so nice,” Jones told a Times reporter during the Games in a story published July 27, 1996. “You forget how nice people are. You don’t see this in New York City or Chicago. And I don’t think there’s been a venue that is as nice, as picturesque. It’s perfect.”
The Atlanta Games were the third of Jones’ 40-year-plus broadcast career, but his first time to call rowing and canoe-kayak events. He and analyst Bob Ernst spent a great deal of time and effort educating viewers about both sports.
Through it all, Jones had only good things to say about the host city and its venue.
“It’s awesome,” he said of the Olympic site on Lanier. “It’s almost like they designed the lake to put the venue there.”
A Fort Smith, Ark., native, Jones started his career at ABC in 1960 broadcasting American Football League games. In 1965, he moved on to NBC, continuing to broadcast the AFL and later the NFL. He continued to work NFL games until 1997, when NBC lost the league broadcasting rights to CBS.
Jones covered the 1988 and 1992 Olympics as well as golf and Wimbledon tennis.
NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol called Jones “one of the great pioneers of NBC Sports. His work in particular on the NFL, golf and the Olympics left a lasting legacy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.