Jim Simpson was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in nearby Chevy Chase, Md. He began his broadcasting career with a short-lived radio show, “Hunting and Fishing With Jimmy Simspon,” when he was 15. He attended George Washington University in Washington and served in the Coast Guard and Navy Reserve. After several jobs in radio, he began working in television in Washington in 1949. In the early 1950s, he shared a half-hour news program at Washington’s WTOP-TV with another TV newcomer, Walter Cronkite, the future anchor of the CBS Evening News. He joined NBC’s Washington affiliate, WRC-TV, in 1955. Simpson broadcast Atlantic Coast Conference basketball games in the early 1960s and worked as a sports reporter at WRC-TV. Eventually he would broadcast many sports at NBC, including football, basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. For much of the 1960s and 1970s he was generally considered the network’s number two play-by-play announcer, behind only Curt Gowdy. He was in New Haven, Connecticut on November 22, 1963 to do the annual Harvard-Yale football game with Lindsey Nelson and Terry Brennan, when word came of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Simpson was quoted as saying to Nelson as they walked through the tunnel of the Yale Bowl, “We will remember this walk and this moment for a long, long, time.” His work on American Football League (and later American Football Conference) telecasts for NBC is perhaps what he is best remembered for. On January 15, 1967, Simpson (along with former quarterback George Ratterman) called Super Bowl I for NBC Radio. He also called several World Series for NBC Radio, as well as numerous Orange Bowl games and the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final (via tape delay) for NBC television.
In 1979, the fledgling ESPN cable sports network brought Jim Simpson on board to provide some needed credibility with sports fans. Simpson broadcast the first NCAA basketball game the network televised, with flamboyant Dick Vitale as the color man. Vitale credits Simpson with helping him develop as a sportscaster. Simpson also called USFL and College World Series games for ESPN, and in 1988 called the Baltimore Orioles’ local telecasts on WMAR-TV, the NBC affiliate at the time. After his sportscasting days Simpson retired to St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Among other firsts he was the initial U.S. sportscaster to appear live via satellite from Asia, and he was involved in the first American sportscast using instant replay technology. In 2005, ESPN brought Simpson back from retirement to do play-by-play for a series of college basketball games in a “turn back the clock” format on the ESPN Classic network. Jim Simpson died on January 13, 2016, in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 88.
- December, 20, 1927
- Washington D.C.
- January, 13, 2016
- Scottsdale, Arizona