May 8, 1950 – April 23, 2016
Jamestown has lost one of its community treasures with the weekend death of James H. Riggs III, the former sports editor of the Post-Journal newspaper for 35 years.
Mr. Riggs, considered a champion of local sports in the Jamestown area, died Saturday in Roswell Park Cancer Institute, following a battle with plasma-cell leukemia. He was 65.
“We’ve lost an icon in our little corner of the world,” said Scott Kindberg, his successor as sports editor. “I called him friend, mentor and, I guess, boss, but he was a kind, gentle man in the truest sense of the word.”
Mr. Riggs started in The Post-Journal’s sports department in 1975 and succeeded longtime sports editor Frank Hyde in December 1979. As the sports editor of a smaller-town newspaper, Mr. Riggs didn’t spend too much time chained to his office desk. Even as sports editor, he kept his main beats for more than three decades each, covering the Jamestown Expos and Jammers in the NY-P League, the Jamestown Community College men’s basketball team and Jamestown High School football.
“Whenever you went to a sporting event, whether it was a baseball game at Diethrick Park or Jamestown High School football, you knew Jim would be roaming the sidelines with his camera,” said Chip Johnson, funeral director at Lind Funeral Home.
Mr. Riggs also was tireless. Back when the Post-Journal was an afternoon paper, he’d be at his desk at 4 a.m. each weekday to put together the sports pages for that evening’s paper, sometimes after having covered – and even driven the team van for – an away game for the JCC basketball team the previous night.
And his weekly column, “All In A Day’s Sports,” which often consisted of a potpourri of sports items called “Nuts and Bolts,” was a fixture in the Saturday paper almost every week for more than 40 years.
After retiring in December 2014, Mr. Riggs kept writing his column, even when he became quite ill. His last one appeared seven days before his death, a “Nuts and Bolts” column in which one item compared Villanova’s NCAA basketball tournament-winning buzzer-beater to Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 World Series-winning home run for his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates.
“He considered that a badge of honor,” Kindberg said of the columns Mr. Riggs wrote from his hospital bed. “That was Jim. It was a chance for him to stay connected to the newspaper and the community.”
A native of East Liverpool, Ohio, Mr. Riggs moved to the Chautauqua Institution grounds with his family in his late teens. He graduated from Jamestown Community College and Point Park College (now University) in Pittsburgh, the latter explaining his lifelong love of the Penguins and Pirates.
Among his many accomplishments and honors, Mr. Riggs was one of two charter members of the JCC Athletic Hall of Fame. He also started the Post-Journal Champions Golf Tournament for local club champions, served as official scorer for the Expos and Jammers for about 35 years and covered the “Miracle on Ice” of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team in Lake Placid in 1980. A quiet and private man, according to Kindberg, he also was an accomplished golfer who savored his 6 a.m. tee times.
He is survived by his wife of 41 years, the former Sharon L. Johnson; one son, James; one sister, Carol McKee; and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Bethel Lutheran Church, Third Street, Jamestown.
– Gene Warner