In his eight-decade career, Jenkins wrote 24 books and hundreds of articles for Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest.
Photo by Carolyn Cruz
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Topics: Alumni, Frogs We Will Miss
Legendary sports writer and best-selling novelist Dan Jenkins ’53 spent the final full day of his life at his desk in his Fort Worth home, editing a manuscript.
Jenkins died March 7.
“It was a real source of pride that he finished that last book,” said daughter Sally Jenkins, a sports columnist for The Washington Post. “We don’t know how he did it.”
In August, TCU Press will publish Reunion at Herb’s Café, a novel set in Fort Worth that circles back to many of Jenkins’ iconic characters.
During a writing career that spanned an astonishing eight decades, Jenkins wrote 24 books, including Semi-Tough (Atheneum, 1972), which five years later became a movie starring Burt Reynolds as Billy Clyde Puckett.
Jenkins’ book-length works of nonfiction include His Ownself: A Semi-Tough Memoir (Doubleday, 2014) and 10 other titles.
“He was a Texan in his heart and bones, and he thought Fort Worth as wonderful a spot as any he found,” said Sally Jenkins. “His undying love for TCU was part of that.” From 1950 to 1952, the Cowtown native was the captain of TCU’s golf team, during which time he met future PGA champion Ben Hogan and a lifelong friendship was born.
Sports writer and author Dan Jenkins, from photos of the TCU men’s golf team published in the 1952 Horned Frog yearbook. Courtesy of TCU Special Collections
A decade after graduating, Jenkins went to work for Sports Illustrated. He would write a record 500 stories for the magazine, most focusing on college football and golf.
He and his wife, June, moved to New York City and raised their children, Sally, Marty and Danny, in a Park Avenue apartment while immersing themselves in Manhattan’s social swirl. Jenkins often shut down fabled Upper East Side watering hole Elaine’s in the company of fellow writers including Truman Capote, Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer.
In 1985, Jenkins moved to Golf Digest. All told, he covered 68 Masters and 63 U.S. Opens, amassing an avid following on Twitter by the end.
His legacy continues with the annual Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting, a program overseen by the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. “He was the consummate storyteller,” said Chris Ballard, a Sports Illustrated writer who received the award in 2018. “Our profession — and this world — was lucky to have him.”
For TCU Football Coach Gary Patterson, a friendship with Dan and June Jenkins, who at one time were his neighbors, has helped define his time at TCU. The couple hosted Patterson’s engagement party to wife Kelsey, whom he married in 2004. The couple, he said, were like family.
“What I loved about Dan Jenkins was that he always told you the truth,” Patterson said. “He in his own way, with humor, would hold me accountable. The world isn’t as good a place without him in it.”
— Lisa Martin
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The award-winning sports writer made his name writing for Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest, and his books include Semi-Tough, which became a movie.
Press box named in honor of alumnus and longtime sports writer Dan Jenkins ’53.
Readers share tales of the TCU horned frog through the years, from Addie to SuperFrog.