“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen … welcome to quaint Bloomer Sullivan Gym.”
Those 11 words might have been Dr. Ed Byrd (deceased) at his best … and his best was superb.
Savage fans are keenly aware of the rivalry between Southeastern and East Central. Byrd’s opening line was in response to an article in the Ada newspaper about the Tigers coming to play in “quaint Bloomer Sullivan Gym.”
That probably wasn’t the word the writer wanted, but Dr. Byrd took no prisoners.
The writer was in the gym for the game, but Byrd didn’t look around to see if his opening was appreciated. He just went on about the business of getting the basketball game started.
Byrd joined the Southeastern faculty in 1966 and by 1967, he was behind the microphone in the football press box. Basketball announcing duties followed in 1972.
Byrd said in an interview with school newspaper “The Southeastern” he didn’t know how Director of Athletics Dr. Don Parham (deceased) found out about his prior public announcing, but he did and the perfect person was put into the perfect position.
From that same newspaper article, Byrd explained that he was not a sportscaster. “Those are people who broadcast over the radio or television. I am a public address announcer.”
A history professor by profession, Byrd took knowledge from his playing days and his time as a football official to the PA table.
And Southeastern fans enjoyed Byrd’s skill until 1994, when he lost a tough battle with cancer.
There were several schools in the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference and all of them had PA people. Only Southeastern had Ed Byrd.
He did everything well from correctly pronouncing players’ names to knowing what was called and why. If an explanation was needed, he could supply it. That was not true with PA announcers across the board.
“I would just say that Dr. Byrd had his very own style of announcing the games … and that style was good, very good. His voice was unmistakable, and there was almost a theatric tone to it. That is the only word I can think of. The sound was very clean and precise,” said Mark Webb, who had the unenviable task of following Byrd at the microphone.
Webb had been asked to step in when Byrd was in the hospital and he darn near memorized both rosters in preparation.
“About 20 minutes before kickoff,” Webb said, “and about one minute before the welcome announcement, Dr. Parham literally pulled me out of my seat. He took me into the next room and pointed to Dr. Byrd, who had checked himself out of the hospital and was walking up the stadium steps.
“He never knew I was there and was never told. I can assure you there wasn’t anyone else outside that pressbox who knew the scenario, either. He called the game masterfully, just like he always did.
“Bottom line, the guy was a pro. He will forever be the “Voice of the Savages” and the man people think of when they hear those words. He did it without a lot of loud music or sound effects. He announced the games, focusing all attention on the players and coaches, and he was the best at it.”
Byrd was born in Magee, Mississippi, and graduated with honors in 1955 from McClenaghan High School in Florence, South Carolina, where he played basketball and football.
The son of a preacher, he enrolled at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he was a ministerial student until deciding he could do more good in the classroom.
Baylor was also where he met and married Martha “Marty” Williamson in 1959, the year he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in history.
He received his Master of Arts degree from Baylor in 1962. His Thesis title was “Business and the Recognition of Russia, 1933.”
Byrd received his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Texas Tech University in 1969 with a 4.0 GPA in Modern European History. His Dissertation title was “Paul Deroulede, Revanchist.”
The Byrds moved to Durant in 1966. Byrd took his history knowledge into the classroom and that great voice to the football pressbox and the basketball sideline. Marty spent 23 years as an elementary teacher in Bennington.
There will be a family cheering section when Marty accepts the honor for her late husband. Oldest daughter Julia Byrd Burton of Claremore, her son and wife, Drew Mangrum and Brooke from Stillwater; daughter Laura Byrd Claborn, her husband Robert and children Tessa Claborn (13) and Brock Edward (6) from Durant; niece Nora Rich Balint from Nashville, Tennessee; and Byrd’s sister Joy Byrd Rich, from Edgewood, Kentucky, will be at the head table with Marty.
Byrd revived golf on the Southeastern campus and coached the team to on-course success from 1967-71.
Too bad golf doesn’t have a place for PA announcers.
Byrd’s true calling was the classroom. He was an outstanding teacher and collected numerous awards and honors, among them Alpha Sigma Tau Professor of the Year, the Burlington Northern Faculty Achievement Award and the prestigious Faculty Senate Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Dr. Byrd was recognized as a Distinguished Former Faculty in 2000.
Arnold Walker, retired associate professor of chemistry emeritus, was a colleague of Byrd.
Walker said, “Ed was a gifted historian and teacher. He was respected and praised by students and faculty, and honored by local and regional historians.
“He was the “Voice” of Southeastern sports – none could have done better as an announcer. He was the best.
“Ed took pride in his dress, his class preparations, his research and his sports announcing. He always dressed and carried himself with pride. He was well liked – an important member of the Southeastern family.
“The Byrd family was a great addition to our community.”
Harold Harmon can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.