First ‘Sports Illustrated’ Editor Dies

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(AP) Sidney L. James, founding editor of Sports Illustrated during a 40-year career with Time Inc., has died. He was 97.

James, who had lived in St. Louis; New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Laguna Hills, Calif.; died March 11 at a nursing home after a yearlong battle with prostate cancer, according to his son, Timothy James.

James was the assistant managing editor at Life magazine in 1953 when Henry R. Luce, Time Inc.’s co-founder, tapped him to launch a national publication devoted to sports. At the time, many in the publishing world doubted a periodical that relied on the fickle affections of sports fans could compete against the emerging medium of television.

James embraced the challenge, and the first issue of Sports Illustrated appeared Aug. 16, 1954.

During his six years as the magazine’s top editor and five years as its publisher, he persuaded literary lions like William Faulkner, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck to contribute articles. He retired from Time in 1969, remaining most proud of his accomplishment at SI, according to his son.

“”When my father was tapped by Luce, he said he didn’t care anything about the facts, he was going to make it work, and he did,”” Timothy James said.

Born Aug. 6, 1906, in St. Louis, James got his start in journalism at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the newspaper where his father had worked. He contributed freelance articles to Time Magazine, which summoned him to New York in 1936 to be a staff writer.

Returning to New York following World War II, James went to work at Life, where he helped coordinate with NBC the first televised coverage of the Republican and Democratic national political conventions in 1948.

He is survived by three children, Christopher James of Alameda, Timothy James of New York and Sidney Kistin of Corrales, N.M.; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Memorial arrangements were pending.

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