THE OHIO Valley has seen the passing of a journalistic icon.
Longtime Times Leader scribe Richard "Hoot" Gibson died this morning at Wheeling Hospital. Gibson, 60, lost a courageous and nearly year-long battle against lymphoma.
"Hoot was an exceptional and versatile writer. His sports columns and features were second to none," said longtime associate and Times Leader Managing Editor Robert "Bubba" Kapral. "Hoot loved to travel and consequently there wasn't a national sporting event that he did not cover multiple times. He rubbed elbows with many of the elite professional and collegiate athletes and coaches.
"He was far more than a sports writer. Hoot was very broad-based in his journalistic offerings. He did everything in our business from penning his popular "Left Lane" music column to covering elections," Kapral said. "His quality of work and dedication to the industry were reflected on Hoot being selected to enter this year's OVAC Hall of Fame Class in the media category. Hoot was a well-loved individual by all those who knew him. He had a quick wit and a genuine caring for the people in his life. Hoot was a special individual in all aspects."
"Rich will be greatly missed on and off the field. He was more than just a writer, he was always full of life and stories," said Times Leader Publisher Lori Figurski. "I will truly miss our conversations on the Indians, Pirates and sports in general. Hoot never met a stranger - he was a fast friend to all. I will forever miss our Rich."
The St. Clairsville High graduate began his career in the local media in 1981 and spent 32 years on the staff at The Times Leader, serving as a sports writer and for a brief time as sports editor and also as area news editor.
Gibson has written countless columns covering high school, college and professional sports and instituted the All-Times Leader teams in all high school sports.
He has covered OVAC contests in nearly every sport and at most conference schools over the years, including OVAC all-star games in every sport.
Gibson has been seen at countless sporting events not only locally, but around the country. He's covered several NCAA men's basketball "Final Four" games, many World Series and MLB All-Star Games, 10 Super Bowls and 18 college football bowl games. He's also authored countless stories on the Ohio State Buckeyes and the West Virginia Mountaineers and served one year as the beat writer for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I grew up reading Hoot's columns and articles, and I remember always thinking that if Hoot was covering the game, it had to be one of the biggest on the card that night," said T-L Sports Editor Seth Staskey. "Rich had the opportunity to cover things that many only dream of in this profession. His passing not only leaves a void at this paper, but certainly in the realm of Ohio Valley sports journalism. I know Rich will be missed greatly by all those who knew him, but he'll never be forgotten."
He received the OHSAA Media Service Award for the Eastern District in 2000 and has won several Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association awards over the years.
Gibson was also a freelance writer for several years for Basketball Weekly magazine based out of Detroit, Mich.
Gibson, who attended Harding University in Arkansas, also spent several years as a local baseball, basketball and volleyball official and served as manager of the Fairpoint-Neffs ballclub of the Ohio Valley Baseball League.
He served three years in the United States Navy (1976-78), working in communications for Command 6th Fleet Europe while stationed in Italy and touring both Europe and northern Africa.
He is survived by a sister, Joy Pempek. She resides in Lexington, Ky.