Longtime WHO radio and TV sportscaster Jim Zabel passed away Thursday afternoon.
He was 91.
Dubbed the “Voice of Iowa,” he spent 65 years on WHO radio and TV having joined in 1944. He was behind the mic for every Iowa football and basketball game for 50 years, including five Rose Bowl games.
Zabel was named to the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
In September 2009, Andy Fales profiled Zabel as an Iowa Icon. You can watch that homage above.
He’ll be remembered most as the longtime voice of the Iowa Hawkeye football team.
Zabel replaced Ronald Reagan when he joined WHO in the 1940’s and later recalled connecting to his predecessor, “I did interview him at the White House, incidentally, when he was President of the United States and he just made a major speech about foreign policy and then he came in and they set me up in the Lincoln room which was right next to the east room and I had the WHO logo and he leaned in and said ‘how ’bout those Hawkeyes?”
His wife, Jill, told the Register he passed away doing what he loved, peacefully preparing for his Sunday evening WHO radio show, Two Guys Named Jim, from his house in Arizona.
In an interview with Andy Fales in 2009, Zabel predicted, “They’ll cart me out and I’ll still have the microphone -that’ll be the last thing I hold on to – that’ll be the microphone.” And so it was.
Several Iowa sporting figures took to Twitter to pass on their condolences.
RIP, Jim Zabel, our dear friend, colleague and the patriarch of sports broadcasting in Iowa.
— Murph & Andy Show (@MURPHnANDY) May 24, 2013
Jim Zabel was one of a kind. My greatest professional honor is and always will be that we were on air partners for nearly a decade.
— Jon Miller (@HawkeyeNation) May 24, 2013
The word legend is tossed around loosely, but in Iowa broadcasting, Jim Zabel is a no-doubter. I loved Z. I will miss him dearly.
— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) May 24, 2013
The Hawkeye family lost a legend tonight in Jim Zabel. “Z” was the definition of a Hawkeye. #iloveitiloveitiloveit
— University of Iowa (@uiowa) May 24, 2013