By Loran Smith, an award-winning writer and a longtime staff member of the University of Georgia Athletic Association. He has been a prolific author, penning a regular column that still appears in the Athens Banner Herald as well as several newspapers around the state, and he has written more than a dozen books. A native of Wrightsville, Ga., Smith is a past chairman of the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and president of the NFF University of Georgia (Athens) Chapter. 

Following the Rose Bowl in 2006, Keith Jackson, the Georgian, who rode a mule to school as a boy, only to travel the world as a sportscaster for ABC television, retired to his home in the hills of Sherman Oaks, a neat suburb of Los Angeles, where he found unending peace and solace on his deck from where he can see in the smoggy distance the San Gabriel Mountains.

          That deck has been very important in his life.  "Always will be," he intoned when I visited him earlier this year.  There was a time when he could take a dip in the pool with his kids when he was home from his wide world of travel, a memorable highlight that delightfully endures.  He and his stately wife, Turi, with her Norwegian good looks, could sit on the deck and enjoy the cool breezes of the summer and chill of evenings in the fall, reflecting on a storybook career. 

          They have always enjoyed grilling and dinning under the pergola which offers shade from the sun and brings about soothing ambience for the meals they enjoy.   He is expert at the grill, recently giving lamb chops his tender loving care as he extended the warmest of good neighborly hospitality to old friends.   Jackson was so universally appreciated during the time that he called college football games, everybody who knew him became  “homefolks.”  What would you expect from a generous and affable man with roots in Carroll County, Georgia?

          College football never had a greater friend.  Keith was the face and voice of the campus game from 1952 until he retired in 2006.    The highlights of his career include calling the Rose Bowl 15 times, more than any announcer.  When he was a barefoot country boy in Roopville, Ga., he listened to the 1943 Rose Bowl on a battery operated radio, Georgia defeated UCLA, 9-0, as WWII gripped the nation.  There was no electricity on the farm, but there was an outhouse, an early-to-bed-early-to-rise routine, unending manual labor and  Pearl, the mule he rode to the Roopville schoolhouse.

          He grew to be a strapping boy of 6-3 and could “carry two sacks of guano about, one under each arm.”  He did well in school, never complained about the innumerable farm chores which he had to fulfill each day from tending to the garden to harvesting row crops in early fall and cutting firewood in winter.  However, there was a hidden wanderlust which dictated that while he was comfortable down on the farm, he wanted to exit and see what the outside world offered. 

           Keith lied about his age and joined the Marines when he was 16 much to the chagrin of a not-so-clairvoyant teacher, named Mary Baxter, who advised against his military objective.  “You will get killed,” she complained, “or you will never amount to a hill of beans.”

          Her negative stance rip sawed a nerve and brought forth the ultimate in satisfaction in1952 when he called the radio broadcast of a Washington State-Stanford game. He had always been motivated to prove his teacher wrong.  Nothing sinister or vindictive but he wanted to make something of himself, never once expecting that he would rise to the level of celebrity that came his way.

          When he was discharged, having spent time in China and the Far East, he was a forward thinking man with a canny insight into making mature decisions.  He knew that the G.I. Bill would send him wherever he wanted to enroll.  He sought two degrees, one in political science and one in police science.  Washington State in Pullman, Wash., about as far away from Roopville as the moon to his family and neighbors, offered that option.   He headed West and never returned except for calling football games in places like Athens, Tuscaloosa, Knoxville and Auburn.

          Still proud to have been a country boy, Keith Jackson is a versatile broadcast icon who covered 10 Olympics, was the first play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Football (with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith), covered sports in countless countries and helped Walter Cronkite cover the1964 Republican convention in San Francisco.  He has won practically every award imaginable in sports broadcasting.

          Washington State has named the building which houses its Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, "Keith Jackson Hall."   Such honor usually is associated with donors who make contributions in excess of seven figures.  The Rose Bowl has named its broadcast facilities, “The Keith Jackson Broadcast Center,” but the the University of Nebraska made his day when it built a restroom in the broadcast booth at  Memorial Stadium and put up a sign, "The Keith Jackson Toilet Facility."

          In his storied career, there was never a hint of anything off color or out of order.  He was a gentleman and a friend to all those who came into his sphere, although there can be raw candor in his conversation when he is pontificating.  He takes things seriously, although not himself, his country boy modesty trumping all conversations.

          If you follow the sports scene, you may be fortunate to rub shoulders with those who are the best of their times.  To be able to have one of the greatest of broadcasters invite you to his home for dinner and then cook lamb chops at his grill, is a signature moment worthy of bronzing.   

          Here's to the sage of Roopville, whose voice resonated with millions across continents.   You can be sure that "he never forgot where he came from."