Jim Murray once told Linda McCoy-Murray that nobody would remember him after he was gone. It was not necessary for Linda to do anything in order to keep her late husband’s words alive in the annals of sports writing. However, she wanted them to mean more than that. She wanted Jim’s writing to have a positive lasting affect on the lives of other people. Beyond his talent, Murray’s desire to help his fellow man was his real legacy.
For the next 13 years, McCoy-Murray was on a mission. Today, his name and his legacy are thriving after McCoy-Murray established the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, which raises money to award college scholarships to aspiring journalists. It's something she has become passionate about, travelling all over the country to spread the message.
"It's important to me for them to know as much as they can about Jim," she said. "His writings, naturally, but his integrity, honesty and humility along with a brilliant mind. There is a badge of honor being a Murray Scholar."
On the first anniversary of his death, she held a charity golf tournament at Riviera and raised enough money to provide seven $5,000 scholarships. Through donations and other events, the foundation has provided five scholarships a year ever since. Students are asked to write an essay on a topic selected by a group of judges, who then judge the submissions. ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi was one of the winners when he was a junior at USC, and later served on the Murray board of directors.
McCoy-Murray travels across the country spreading the word, keeping
Murray's name and prose alive. She plans to publish a book of his more than 200 columns written on female athletes and has designs on future books, compilations of his writings on the Dodgers, Raiders, and of course, horse racing.
Linda recalled what Jim Bacon, publisher of Beverly Hills 213, said as they buried Murray at Holy Cross Cemetery in 1998.
"Jim would hate this," he said. "He's got a downhill lie."
McCoy-Murray laughed long and hard. To her, these kinds of observations, both made by Murray and about him, are what keep his legacy fresh. With in mind, she sends out one of his columns every Monday, relevant to what's happening in sports today. She calls it, "Mondays with Murray."
"He was an old shoe," she says. "There will never ever be anyone like him. I'm certain of that."
The Jim Murray Sports Journalism Workshop has become an integral component of the Los Angeles Times’ program to develop student journalists from high school through college. 30 students attend the workshop each year.
“Jim Murray set a standard in sports writing that he maintained over many, many years,” said former Times sports editor Bill Dwyre, noting Murray’s desire to help young writers. Many older writers are notoriously unhelpful to up-and-comers, treating them the way veteran Tigers treated young Ty Cobb when he came up to Detroit from the South “with a chip on his shoulder still fighting the Civil War.”
Not so Murray.
“After learning about Murray and his work in last year’s workshop, the students were walking on air when they left here,” said Dwyre. Dwyre selects workshop participants from applications submitted by sophomore and junior students nominated by journalism faculty at colleges across the United States. The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s primary purpose is to raise money for journalism scholarships. Currently 28 universities participate annually in a national essay competition in which five $5,000 scholarships are annually awarded.
Shelley Smith of ESPNLosAngeles.com wrote of Linda’s efforts in “Columnist lives on in words.”
“Linda McCoy-Murray is on a mission to preserve the words of her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jim Murray,” she wrote.
"Look, biceps," Linda said, flexing one day during lunch, before laughing, "Who knew?"
From Murray Scholars
I was sitting in front of my computer in the Los Angeles Daily News newsroom when I got the call from Linda McCoy Murray. I was an intern at the newspaper at the time, putting together the betting lines for the next day’s races at Hollywood Park, when she introduced herself. I almost lost my breath and had to stand up and pace around my desk. “There’s no way I would get this call if it wasn’t good news right?” I thought to myself. Then Linda said the words I had dreamed of hearing for the past year.
“Congratulations, Arash, you’ve been selected as a Murray Scholar.”
Linda is the only one who can recall what I said next because I must have blacked out and gone hysterical as I thanked her and told her how much Jim Murray meant to me. I always viewed winning the Jim Murray Memorial Scholarship as the equivalent of winning the Academy Award as a college sports writer. I had grown up reading Jim Murray as a kid. While other kids wanted to read fictional tales about legends and sorcerers, I wanted to read Murray’s columns on Lasorda and Scioscia. He painted a picture so vivid and made each game so compelling I often looked forward to what Murray would write about the game than the game itself.
I became a high school football stringer for the Los Angeles Times in 1998, shortly after Jim’s passing and was never able to fulfill my dream of having my byline in the same paper as Jim’s or bouncing story ideas off him but being named a “Murray Scholar” and having a close relationship with Linda has been the fulfillment of an even greater dream. Now as a board member for the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, working with Linda to reward students with a scholarship in Jim’s honor, I’m honored continue to pass Jim’s legacy on to students who I can only hope are as excited as I was when Linda called with the good news.
Dallas Nicole Woodburn (Murray Scholar 2007)
A legacy greater than the written word
Jim Murray impacted my life immeasurably. I am a writer today in no small part because of him. Just as importantly, Jim Murray affected the kind of caring person I strive to be.
While I never got the chance to meet Jim Murray, my dad did. He grew up reading Jim Murray and idolized him. When my dad was a senior in college, he wrote Jim a letter seeking advice on becoming a sports columnist.
Jim wrote back a thoughtful page-long handwritten letter which included this quote that I have taped above my writing desk: “If you are meant to be a writer, you will be. No one can stop a writer from writing. Not even Hitler could do that.”
My dad became a sports columnist. Even better, he became friends with Jim. I grew up reading my dad’s columns and wanted to be a writer because of him. I always thought my dad was the best sportswriter ever – but after I started reading the Jim Murray books on my dad’s bookshelf, I had to drop Pop to No. 2.
But, as I said, Jim Murray had a greater influence on me than inspiring me as a writer. The past eight years, I have held a Holiday Book Drive (www.WriteOnBooks.org) that has donated more than 11,000 new books to underprivileged children. My younger brother Greg started a nonprofit organization Give Running (www.GiveRunning.org) that has donated more than 9,000 pairs of running shoes to disadvantaged youth living in Third World countries. These endeavors have Jim Murray’s fingerprints all over them.
My dad not only read the book The Best of Jim Murray; he was touched and changed by it. Specifically, by Jim's account of his time as a crime reporter for the old Los Angeles Examiner and about the heartache of doing a story on a little girl who lost her leg after being run over by a truck.
“The thought of her going though life that way made me shrink,” Jim wrote.
He rose to the occasion by taking the $8 he had left from his paycheck (“which was only $38 to begin with in those days”) and bought her an armful of toys and took them to her in the hospital.
The Christmas after my dad read that book, he bought an armful of basketballs that he donated to the Special Olympics. He has continued to do annually, and when I came along – and later my brother Greg – dad took us with to drop the balls off at various charities. In time, we began using our own money and picking out the sports balls ourselves. Today, we give books and running shoes.
Jim Murray was not only a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer; too, he was a Hall of Fame person.
Dallas Woodburn is a 2007 Murray Scholar, the author of two collections of short stories, and founder of Write On! For Literacy. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 2009 and is now an MFA student at Purdue University. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Years after burying her husband “with the heaviest of hearts amid a ceremony usually reserved for heads of state,” indeed it was her strength of resolve that made the Jim Murray Foundation what it is today. A California Nonprofit Corporation established May 17, 1999 to perpetuate Jim's memory and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism, the foundation engages in fund raising events. In order to help them create more scholarships for talented students, please contribute what you can to them at:
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation
P.O. Box 995
La Quinta, CA 92247-0995
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism