Ex-Hickory sports figure had career
of more than 50 years in journalism
By CHRIS HOBBS
LILLINGTON – Dan B. Richards, whose tenures as sports editor at two newspapers named Daily Record set a tone for sports coverage for many years in those North Carolina communities, died Sunday at age 84.
Richards became sports editor of The Hickory Daily Record in the early 1970s and held the position for nearly two decades. He later moved to Dunn and was sports editor of The Dunn Daily Record from early 1987 until he retired.
Details for a memorial service for Richards have not yet been finalized.
He was a native of New Port, Rhode Island and graduate of Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia.
In nearly 20 years in Hickory, Richards established the newspaper’s sports section as one of the best in the state – especially among those whose primary focus was coverage of high schools (in a four-county area of Alexander, Burke, Catawba and Caldwell, then called The Unifour).
The newspaper also covered Lenoir-Rhyne University football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball extensively for many years. A reporter attended all home games in those sports and followed the Bears teams to all football road games and the majority of road games in men’s basketball and baseball.
Richards thrived on long hours, communication, details and accuracy, and his sports section attempted to include sports at every age level, including Little League baseball and other sports.
Then owned by the Gifford Family, reporters assigned by Richards could be staying overnight, for example, at a Little League tournament in Gastonia or Boone for a week or as long as area teams were still alive in the bracket.
In the 1980s, Richards sent the writer of this article (on the full-time sports staff at the time) to Dayton, Ohio for nearly a week to cover the LRU women’s basketball team in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Final Four.
During Richards’ tenure, the Hickory paper also regularly staffed ACC football and basketball. Almost always, at least one reporter would staff a football game at Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina or N.C. State with a day kickoff and also cover one of those schools playing the same day with a nighttime kickoff.
Richards also covered the ACC basketball tournament.
It was not unusual for sports reporters and Richards to each log anywhere from 1,000 to more than 3,000 miles a month covering sports throughout the state.
While in Hickory, Hobbs affectionately nicknamed Richards “The BBW (Big Bad Wolf)” for his passionate, often stern and very loud vocal reactions (and he was known to throw a thing or two if really upset).
Richards — whose many traits included a great sense of humor — eventually embraced the nickname. He would approach those working with him in the sports department, lean over their shoulder and howl and say “It’s the BBW!” and put a soft drink and candy bar on that person’s desk.
Before coming to Hickory, Richards covered a lot of University of Virginia sports – especially baseball. His uncle wrote about religion for The Washington Post.
Richards always recruited and involved young aspiring writers to work for him at the Hickory paper. In its heyday, the late Arthur (Ott) Dillingham and Chris Hobbs, now editor and content coordinator for HobbsDailyReport.com, made up the full-time sports staff.
Hobbs is approaching his 45th consecutive year in sports journalism with his focus still on high school coverage in the Greater Hickory area.
Hired by Richards as a “stringer” weeks after his high school graduation in 1976, Hobbs worked for Richards until going to The Lenoir News Topic in mid-1979 as a 20-year-old sports editor.
Given a choice to later become sports editor of the Shelby paper or return to Hickory and work full-time for Richards, Hobbs came back to Hickory and worked there until leaving to become the then-Gastonia Gazette as assistant sports editor.
After nine months in Gastonia, Hobbs joined The Charlotte Observer at age 25 to cover more than 100 high schools in Piedmont N.C. for the next 14 years.