NATCHITOCHES – Incomparable New Orleans Saints play-by-play announcer and award-winning New Orleans television figure Jim Henderson joins Dan McDonald, whose multi-faceted career has won him national acclaim as a writer and sports publicist, as 2017 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
The honor, to be made official June 24 in Natchitoches, means Henderson and McDonald will join the elite 11-person Class of 2017 being inducted in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Henderson and McDonald were selected from a 19-person pool of outstanding nominees for the state's top sports journalism honor.
The Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism is the most prestigious honor offered to sports media in the state. Recipients are chosen by the 35-member Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame selection committee based on nominees' professional accomplishments in local, state, regional and even national arenas, with leadership in the LSWA a contributing factor and three decades of work in the profession as a requirement.
Distinguished Service Award winners are enshrined in the Hall of Fame along with the* *400 current athletes, sports journalists, coaches and administrators chosen since 1959. Just 58 leading figures in the state's sports media have been honored with the Distinguished Service Award since its inception almost 35 years ago, in 1982.
Henderson, who has been the Saints' distinctive radio play-by-play voice since 1986, is a 13-time winner of Louisiana's sportscaster of the year honor as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
After earning enshrinement in 2011 to the College Sports Information Directors of America's Hall of Fame for his innovative work at his alma mater, Northwestern State, and UL Lafayette from 1975-99, McDonald has also received national and LSWA honors as a sports writer, and is one of the Acadiana area's busiest sports broadcasting figures.
Henderson and McDonald will be among the 2017 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class to be spotlighted in the annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies on Saturday evening, June 24, at the Natchitoches Events Center. The Induction Dinner and Ceremonies are the culmination of the 2017 Induction Celebration beginning Thursday afternoon, June 22, with a press conference at the Hall of Fame museum at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches.
LSU's David Toms, whose 13 PGA Tour golf wins include a major championship, is joined by nine-time Pro Bowl football star Ed Reed, three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel, and World Series champ Juan Pierre headlining eight 2016 competitive ballot inductees chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
LSU has heavy impact in the Class of 2017. Two more Tiger heroes, football and track great Eddie Kennison and iconic gymnastics coach D-D Breaux, are included along with Raymond Didier, who has impressive LSU credentials coupled with coaching feats at Nicholls and UL Lafayette. Rounding out the class is Southeastern Louisiana basketball legend C.A. Core. Core and Didier will be inducted posthumously.
Also honored with enshrinement in the Class of 2017 will be the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award winner, to be announced next week.
The 2017 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking $23 million, two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.
The selection of Henderson and McDonald was jointly announced Friday by Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland and LSWA president Paul Letlow.
Henderson, who spent 34 years (1978-2012) as sports director of WWL-TV in New Orleans, has been the radio play-by-play voice of the New Orleans Saints since 1986 (except for the 1990 season, when he called NFL games for CBS-TV).
Henderson replaced New Orleans legend and 1990 DSA winner Lloyd "Hap" Glaudi as WWL's sports director, and helped the station produce one of the highest-rated local news broadcasts in America. As a reporter for CBS Newspath, Henderson regularly covered major events like the Super Bowl, the Masters and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
His play-by-play career has allowed Henderson to be the soundtrack for memorable moments in Saints history, including their first playoff victory in 2000 ("Hakim dropped the ball!"), the NFC Championship Game win in January 2010 ("Pigs have flown! Hell has frozen over! The Saints are on their way to the Super Bowl!") and, two weeks later, the Saints' victory in Super Bowl XLIV ("Get ready to party with the Lombardi, New Orleans!"). After retiring from WWL in January 2012, he has remained in his play-by-play role with the Saints. His TV "retirement" did not last long. Six months later, he returned to the airwaves to provide commentary and analysis on the Saints for WVUE-TV.
In a career dating to 1974, McDonald continues to pile up LSWA writing awards and remains involved in sports media relations in the private sector. He stands alongside state sports information legends Louis Bonnette, Paul Manasseh and Ace Higgins as inductees in the College Sports Information Directors of America's Hall of Fame (June 2011).
In 26 years as an SID at Northwestern State (1975-80) and Louisiana-Lafayette (1980-99), McDonald became an industry leader in many aspects. Among those who benefited first hand from McDonald's guidance include former assistants Herb Vincent, the associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference; Greg Sharko, the media relations director for the Association of Tennis Professionals; and Pat Murphy, the head softball coach at the University of Alabama, who came to work as a graduate assistant SID for McDonald in Lafayette.
After graduating in three years from Northwestern, the Jonesboro native spent one year as a sportswriter at the Alexandria Town Talk before Northwestern hired him - at 22 years old - to be the SID of what was about to become a Division I athletics department. In 1980, he moved to UL-Lafayette. McDonald won numerous CoSIDA awards for writing and media guides at both institutions, including national honors at NSU, and served two years on the CoSIDA Board of Directors.
He was a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee media relations staff for two Olympic Games (Seoul, 1988 and Atlanta, 1996) and six U.S. Olympic Festivals. He also served two years as president, after a two-year term as vice president, of the LSWA and remains a key member of the LSWA Executive Committee and Hall of Fame Committee.
McDonald retired from then-USL to become senior sports writer at the Lafayette Daily Advertiser and spent nine years in that role. Now a freelance journalist, he has won dozens of writing awards from the LSWA, including three 'Writer of the Year' awards in a five-year span, and was the 1999 recipient of the LSWA's coveted Mac Russo Award recognizing members who remarkably represent the ideals of the organization. At the Advertiser, he captured a "Best of Gannett" national award for his coverage of the Little League World Series.
McDonald has also done extensive broadcast and television work, including currently anchoring annual webcasts of Sun Belt Conference baseball, softball and golf tournaments. He and his wife of 28 years, Mary Beth McDonald, operate the Lafayette-based McD Media marketing/public relations firm with an emphasis on sports PR.
The 2017 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 22 with the press conference and an evening reception. It includes three receptions, a youth sports clinic, and a Friday, June 23 golf scramble at Oak Wing Golf Course in Alexandria. Tickets for the Induction Dinner and Ceremonies, and golf entries, will be on sale this spring through the LaSportsHall.com website.
Adding the 326 sports competitors currently enshrined, 16 previous winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 58 prior recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, there are 400 members of the Hall of Fame prior to this summer's ceremonies.
The 2017 Induction Celebration weekend will be hosted by the LSWA and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, the support organization for the Hall of Fame. The LSHOF Foundation was established as a 501 c 3 non-profit entity in 1975 and is governed by a statewide board of directors. For information on participation and sponsorship opportunities, contact Foundation President/CEO Ronnie Rantz at 225-802-6040 or RonnieRantz@LaSportsHall.com. Standard and customized sponsorships are available.
Former Saints RB Deuce McAllister was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 23. Photos from Northwestern State.