Jim McKay Biography

Journalist, Television Personality (1921–2008)
Jim McKay was an Emmy Award-winning TV journalist and sportscaster known for his Olympics coverage and hosting duties on Wide World of Sports.


Born on September 24, 1921, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jim McKay worked in various parts of television journalism before becoming known for his Olympics coverage through the decades, including the tragic Munich games. He was the first sports announcer to win an Emmy Award and earned a dozen more, also working as the host of the iconic, globe-spanning ABC series Wide World of Sports (1961-98). He died on June 7, 2008.

Early Career

Sportscaster and journalist James McKay was born James Kenneth McManus on September 24, 1921, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The former host of ABC's Wide World of Sports and frequent Olympic commentator, McKay is one of the most famous sportscasters in the history of television. A graduate of Loyola College, he started out as a newspaper reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun in 1946. The next year McKay became a television personality on Baltimore's first television station WMAR-TV, handling news and sports. He also worked hard behind the scenes as a writer, producer and director.

'Wide World of Sports'

With his strong journalism skills and appealing on-camera persona, McKay was a rising star, earning his own variety show on CBS in 1950. But soon much of his work for CBS revolved around sports. As a sports commentator, he covered events such as golf tournaments, horse racing and college football. In 1961, McKay made the move to ABC where he hosted Wide World of Sports, created by ABC Sports president Roone Arledge. He served as the program's anchor—which was a type of sports variety show—covering nearly every sport imaginable, from jai alai to weight lifting to skiing. Each weekend, viewers tuned in to see—as McKay said in the show's opening—"the thrill of victory" and "the agony of defeat."

Olympic Coverage

In addition to his duties on the popular Wide World of Sports, McKay also served as an Olympic commentator. He proved himself to be an outstanding journalist and broadcaster during the tragic 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. After days of covering the games, McKay was called upon to report on one of the saddest events in Olympic history. At the Olympic Village, where the athletes were staying during the games, a group of Israeli athletes had been taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists who had already killed two athletes in their initial siege.

McKay delivered news on the event for more than 16 hours as the tragedy unfolded. After negotiations failed, all of the hostages, five of the terrorists and a West German police officer were killed during an unsuccessful rescue effort. McKay won two Emmy Awards for his work at the games, one for sports coverage and the other for his news reporting.

Awards and Honors

Throughout his distinguished career, McKay earned many honors, including 13 Emmys—most recently for his 1992 sports special, Athletes and Addiction: It's Not a Game—as well as a Peabody Award in 1989 and the Olympic Order in 1998. He was also inducted into the Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1995. In addition to his on-air accomplishments, McKay is also an author. He wrote two books based on his life and experiences in sports, entitled My Wide World (1973) and The Real McKay (1998).


86 year-old McKay died of natural causes on June 7, 2008, on his farm in Monkton, Maryland. He and his wife Margaret have two children, Mary and Sean. His son, Sean McManus, became president of CBS Sports and CBS News from 2005-11.

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