Jan. 16, 1967 – Nov. 28, 2017
Rodney J. McKissic, of Amherst, a former sportswriter for The Buffalo News, died unexpectedly Tuesday in Buffalo General Medical Center. He was 50.
Born in Maywood, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, he played varsity basketball at Walther Lutheran High School in Melrose Park, Ill.
A 1989 graduate of the University of Cincinnati, he majored in broadcast journalism and was sports editor for the campus newspaper, the News Record.
He began his newspaper career in 1989 at the Rochester Times-Union, where he covered high school and Syracuse University sports. After a year as a graduate assistant women's basketball coach at Grambling State University in Louisiana, he went to the News-Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., as a copy editor in 1992. He became the paper’s national college basketball writer.
Mr. McKissic returned to Ohio as a sportswriter for the Cincinnati Post in 1998 and covered University of Cincinnati football and basketball, then came to The Buffalo News as a sportswriter in 2001, focusing on college football and basketball.
He was assigned to cover the Buffalo Bills following the death of his friend and colleague, Allen Wilson, in 2011, and often appeared on sports talk shows. He left The News in 2014.
“I worked the Bills and college basketball with him and he was just fun to be around on the beats,” said Buffalo News sports columnist Jerry Sullivan. “He loved his family and he loved sports. He never had a bad thing to say about anybody.”
Sullivan noted that Mr. McKissic was especially proud of his long friendship with former University of Cincinnati men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins, now coach at West Virginia University.
“Whenever Hug was in town, they would go out,” Sullivan said.
“When West Virginia was here for the NCAA tournament, we were right behind the bench,” said his longtime friend, Derek Powell, a former bartender at the Humboldt Inn on East Delavan Avenue.
“He was a wonderful friend,” Powell added. “He and I talked probably every day. We used to argue about sports. We could argue and disagree, but there was never any animosity. Most of our conversation, when it wasn’t about sports, it was about family. He was the ultimate family guy.”
In recent years, Mr. McKissic owned and operated Rip N Run Errands, a delivery and house-sitting service.
He was the author of the 1998 book, “How to Play the Sports Recruiting Game and Get an Athletic Scholarship: The Handbook and Guide to Success for the African-American High School Student.”
He also wrote about basketball for Xavier Nation, an Xavier University sports magazine.
A kidney transplant recipient, he enjoyed traveling, gardening and music, especially old school R&B.
Deeply religious, he was a member of First Trinity Lutheran Church in the Town of Tonawanda.
He and his wife, the former Tracia Bratcher, director of education field experiences at Niagara University, would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on Dec. 17.
Besides his wife, survivors include three sons, Asher, Cameron and Payton; a daughter, Dru; and a sister, Penny Buckles.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 9 in First Trinity Lutheran Church, 1570 Niagara Falls Blvd., Town of Tonawanda.