If there’s one thing a Tarheel recognizes—besides the iconic Carolina blue of all things UNC—it’s the voice of sports broadcasting legend Woody Durham. After 40-plus years of being known as “the Voice of the Tarheels,” Durham has retired from calling Carolina sports and moved on to new ventures. His first book, “Woody Durham: A Tarheel Voice,” co-authored by fellow broadcaster Adam Lucas was released in August. Though it may surprise Durham’s fans that he just begun writing, it was with future readers in mind that he waited.
“A lot of people were asking me, ‘Woody, when are you gonna write a book?’ I said, ‘I hope I can write one, but I don’t want to write one until my career is over.’”
With a win like Carolina’s 2009 NCAA basketball championship it would have been a shame for him to not include it for having been already published. Even without that championship, Durham has a plethora of Carolina wins ripe for discussion. ‘
“I don’t know many broadcast people who do college football and basketball games that [can] say that, together, their teams won more that 70 percent of the games played—and that’s what Carolina football and basketball did,” Durham said.
Before his voice made him a household name for every Tarheel fan, Durham started out as a local radio announcer in his hometown of Abermarle, NC. At 16 he began working weekends, mornings and just about any time he was able at a local radio station. As he delved deeper into broadcasting, particularly during his time as a student at Chapel Hill, he looked to seasoned broadcasters in the area for guidance and feedback on his work.
“It was one of those situations where I honest-to-goodness had a lot of opportunity to be aware to what mistakes I was making,” Durham said. Correcting early mistakes paid off more than Durham could ever have imagined.
Not long after graduating from UNC, he began his first position covering ACC basketball on television in Greensboro, NC. “My long-range goal became: ‘I wanna be the lead announcer for football and basketball on television.’ Never expecting, never thinking about doing the Carolina games on radio. And never thinking that job would come open,” Durham noted. Eventually, the position he didn’t know he was waiting for became available, marking the beginning of his career.
“The job came open,” he recalled. “I was invited to talk about it—I was never offered the job in my first conversations, but as I drove home to Greensboro to do my TV shows—it was where I’d gone to school, I grew up a Carolina fan…So that night, I decided I would call Homer and tell him I was interested in the job myself. I called Coach [Dean] Smith and Bill Dooley—he was the football coach then—and asked for their support, and they said they’d give it to me. And they did. That’s what led to the next 40 years for me.”
After calling over 1,800 Carolina games over the course of his career, Durham decided it was time to begin his life’s next chapter. “A veteran announcer had told me years before, ‘Wood when it’s time you’ll know,’ and I did. That was the reason I stepped down when I did,” Durham said.
Unsatisfied with his broadcasting performance in his final two years before retirement, Durham was ready to step down. “In my wildest dreams, first off, I didn’t know it was gonna last 40 years,” he admitted. “I didn’t know it would end in 40 years.”
Over the past two or three years, Durham wanted to write a book but needed the perfect co-author. Adam Lucas, publisher of “Tarheel Monthly” and author of six books on Carolina basketball, became a perfect fit.
“I’d always had a great deal of respect for Adam because of his ability, within the hour after a football or basketball game, to put something on the website that was both informative and entertaining to read,” Durham said. “A lot of times it would be a completely different angle from what the Sunday morning newspapers or the newspaper the next day would take on why the game was won or lost.”
Between Lucas and Durham, they were able to come up with a format for the book that made it appealing and interesting, including brief recollections at the beginning of each chapter offering insight into particular events. With 40 years of broadcasting wisdom packed into over 200 pages, there’s more than one lesson to be learned from Durham’s experiences—particularly for aspiring broadcasters.
“I have a lot of young people come up to me, some still in high school, others in college, and say they wanna do what I do,” he told. “They know—most of them—that I have two sons and have gotten into this business. So they think maybe I could give them some pretty good advice. Well, the advice that I give them is, ‘It’s not as easy as you may think it is.’ You can’t say, ‘I’m gonna be a sportscaster today,’ and Saturday walk into the press box of a Carolina at Louisville game and do that broadcast.”
Given that Durham has been named 13 times as NC Broadcaster of the Year, awarded the Lindsey Nelson Outstanding Sportscaster Award by the All-American Football Foundation and the Chris Schenkel Award from the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame, much can be learned from his experiences, which he recounts in his book. But there is one bit of advice from Durham that everyone should follow, even those with no interest in broadcasting.
“If you want it bad enough, you have to work for it to get it,” he said. “And if you work hard enough, you will get it.”
Durham will be doing a book signing at Two Sisters Bookery at 318 Nutt Street in Wilmington, NC, on Thursday September, 13th. The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more details, visit twosistersbookery.com or call (910) 762-4444.