John Ward, known to Vol fans as the “Voice of the Vols,” has passed away Wednesday night. He was 88.
Mr. Ward, a Vol Network legend, was a sportscaster and was named Tennessee Sportscaster of the Year 28 times. His career, which spanned more than three decades, began in 1958 when, while still a University of Tennessee student, he broadcast his first UT basketball game.
The Vol Network released a statement saying, “It is with a heavy heart that we announce a great voice has gone silent. Mr. John Ward, legendary advertising executive, and one of the most beloved broadcasters and ambassadors for the University of Tennessee passed away this evening.”
Ward became the Vols radio play-by-play voice for basketball in 1965. Three years after that, he became the voice for football.
In 1976, Ward was named Best College Announcer in the country. Ward retired after the 1998 season alongside former Vol Bill Anderson. His last football game was UT’s Fiesta Bowl win that garnered UT a National Championship.
His catch phrase was “Give him six,” after a Tennessee player scored a touchdown.
In 2012, Ward was inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame along with The legendary sports broadcaster and former Tennessee Volunteer announcer Lindsey Nelson. He was also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame.
He graduated from UT College of Law in 1953.
His wife, Barbara, passed away in 2017. the couple made a $2 million gift to football and basketball scholarships in 1994. At the time, it was the single largest gift to the athletic department in history.
Thunderbolt President Paul Tinkle said he was having breakfast Tuesday morning in Knoxville with Ward’s successor and current play-by-play announcer for Tennessee the Vols Bob Kesling and the two were reminiscing about John Ward and his terrific play by play work with the University.
Tinkle said “John Ward was more than a legend in broadcasting he was a perfectionist and a gentleman. He demanded excellence and accuracy as a broadcaster and had a tremendous command of the English language.” Tinkle went on to say “I remember escorting John Ward to the platform upon his induction into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame. He was genuinely touched, his remarks were brief and he was humbled by the award especially because it came from radio broadcasters.”