2023 LSU Athletics Hall of Fame Class: “Voice of the Tigers” Jim Hawthorne
Jim Hawthorne, the “Voice of the Tigers” for over 30 years, is a member of the 2023 LSU Athletics Hall of Fame class and will be honored at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, September 22, at the Manship Theater in downtown Baton Rouge.
The other members of the 2023 class are legendary women’s golf coach Karen Bahnsen; eighteen-time track and field All-American and football wide receiver Al Coffee; women’s tennis All-American and SEC Player of the Year Megan Falcon; volleyball All-American Nyla Shepherd Moore, who led LSU to two Final Fours; NCAA discus and shot put champion Danyel Mitchell; and Dr. Sam Nader, who worked as LSU Football’s recruiting director and supervisor of operations during a brilliant 46-year career.
by Mason Siegel
LSU Athletics Communications
There’s something about the true power of a voice. For generations of LSU fans, there is no more iconic, more golden voice than Jim Hawthorne’s. On Friday night, Hawthorne will be awarded the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame Distinguished Honor.
Known as “The Voice of the Tigers,” from 1979-2016, Hawthorne served as the radio play-by-play announcer for LSU football, baseball and men’s basketball.
Born in Many, La., Hawthorne moved just south to Anacoco, La., in the sixth grade. He began his career at radio station KLLA as a senior in high school, serving as the play-by-play announcer for the Leesville High School Wampus Cats football team.
After graduating from high school, Hawthorne worked as a commercial radio broadcaster and DJ for KNOC in Natchitoches, La., while attending college at Northwestern State.
There, he befriended one of his greatest mentors, the late Norm Fletcher. Fletcher served as a play-by-play announcer for Northwestern State sports for four decades.
“I loved him, he was like a big brother to me,” Hawthorne said. “If it weren’t for him, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”
With Fletcher as his guide, Hawthorne began calling his first collegiate games, serving as play-by-play announcer for NSU men’s basketball. Hawthorne then moved to Shreveport, La., where he worked at KWKH, a 50,000-watt station that was home to LSU football as well as a popular country music program known as the Louisiana Hayride.
While at KWKH, Hawthorne was the play-by-play announcer for Centenary College men’s basketball. He had the opportunity to cover future four-time NBA champion center Robert “The Chief” Parish. Hawthorne also had the opportunity to call Texas League baseball games and World Football League contests.
With Hawthorne still living in Shreveport and working for KWKH, the voice of LSU football, John Ferguson, visited KWKH in search of a radio announcer for LSU men’s basketball. It was there that Ferguson requested an audition tape from Hawthorne. A few weeks later, Ferguson returned to Shreveport, where the two met for lunch.
While at lunch, Hawthorne asked Ferguson if the position for LSU basketball had been filled.
“Well, that depends,” said Ferguson.
“What does it depend on?” asked Hawthorne.
“It depends on if you’ll take the job or not,” responded Ferguson.
Hawthorne accepted the job as the LSU men’s basketball play-by-play radio announcer, and his tenure as a Tiger had begun.
He began calling LSU men’s basketball games during the 1979-80 season. He went on to broadcast three NCAA Final Four appearances (1981, 1986, 2006), seven SEC regular-season championships and one SEC Tournament title.
Hawthorne covered some of college basketball’s most electrifying players, highlighted by NBA greats Shaquille O’Neal, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and a host of others. Hawthorne was also the voice behind the winningest head coach in program history, Dale Brown.
Hawthorne’s success early success with men’s basketball led him to Tiger Stadium, where he worked alongside Ferguson for a short time before becoming the voice of LSU football. From 1983 to 2015, Hawthorne covered LSU’s 22 bowl games, six SEC titles and two national championships (2003, 2007).
Some of Hawthorne’s most famous calls on the football field include the “Earthquake Game” on October 8, 1988, in which the Tiger Stadium crowd’s reaction to LSU’s game-winning touchdown pass against Auburn is reported to have registered on a seismograph on campus.
Another marquee moment was the “Bluegrass Miracle” on November 9, 2002, as LSU beat Kentucky with a last-second touchdown pass from Marcus Randall to Devery Henderson in Lexington, Ky.
In 1984, Hawthorne became the first play-by-play announcer in the history of LSU baseball. With the arrival of coach Skip Bertman in the same year, LSU baseball would transform into a national power.
“To see it start as something that people came to because they didn’t have anything else to do,” Hawthorne remembered, “and seeing it develop into the incredible powerhouse that the baseball program became under Skip Bertman was just incredible.
“I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him and for him. I don’t know if my career would’ve ended up the way it did had it not been for him.”
Hawthorne was the voice behind LSU’s first 17 College World Series appearances, six national titles and 11 SEC Tournament championships.
Of all the iconic calls over Hawthorne’s legendary career, no moment quite compares to the Warren Morris walk-off home run in the 1996 CWS finale to capture LSU’s third national title.
“That’s probably the most incredible feeling that I’ve ever had,” Hawthorne said as he recalled the moment. “I don’t know if there will ever be anything quite like it again. I’m just very proud to have been part of it.”
Hawthorne proved himself as one of the all-time greats in the industry. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Lindsey Nelson Award, an honor given to an individual who has exemplified a passion for broadcasting during his or her career.
“Lindsey Nelson is one of my heroes as far as announcers are concerned,” said Hawthorne.
In 2015, Hawthorne was presented with the Chris Schenkel Award in New York City. The award honors those who have lengthy, illustrious careers as college football broadcasters with ties to a particular university.
Hawthorne’s basketball accomplishments were recognized by the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches with their Mr. Basketball Award, and on June 25, 2016, he was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches.
Hawthorne credits his mother, as well as Norm Fletcher, for being integral parts of his success.
“Those two really laid the foundation for me to have had the career that I did,” he said.
This year’s LSU Athletics Hall of Fame Distinguished Honor marks yet another milestone in Jim Hawthorne’s decorated career.
“I’m very humbled by it,” he said. “It’s an incredible award with incredible recognition, and I’d always hoped I’d be worthy of it.”
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