Passing of Keith Jackson, historic voice of UW rowing

CENTURY CITY, CA – JANUARY 25: Sportscaster Keith Jackson speaks onstage at the 66th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 25, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA)

Keith Jackson passing silenced the voice for virtually every sport in the US. But it was his commentator role of the UW rowers in 1958 which made history

When you think of color commentator Keith Jackson, you think of Big Ten football classics, and the ever predictable “Whoa Nelly!” which became his trademark. But you may not recall that same Keith Jackson has ties to the University of Washington. If you do, you’ve been around a long time. The time was 1958, and the story was the UW rowing team invited to compete in Moscow Russia.

The background for the 1958 race is worthy of it’s own article. At time, the tensions between communism and capitalism was very real.  Per the narrative for this video:

“Keith Jackson (1928-2018) calls the final 300 meters of the historic crew race between the University of Washington and the four top Soviet crews in Moscow in 1958. It was the first time American athletes competed behind the Iron Curtain, and the first live radio broadcast from the Soviet Union to the United States. In memoriam, Keith Jackson, who passed away yesterday (January 12, 2018). He always maintained that this sporting event was the most exciting one he ever covered in his long and distinguished career as one of the top network sportscasters of the 20th century.”

Jackson’s roots run deep in Seattle

Keith Jackson has deep roots in the northwest, and particularly among the Emerald City of Seattle Washington.  You see, Jackson began his broadcasting career for KOMO Radio in Seattle Washington in the 1950s.  He would advance from radio to television, taking up his broadcasting career with KOMO-TV from 1954 to 1964.

While there, he served as co-anchor for the station’s first news/sports team. He covered Seattle Rainiers baseball games, and University of Washington football games. While the broadcaster has plenty of history for UW, he graduated from Washington State University. And that may hinder some fans from truly appreciating all his contributions to the sport, and to UW.


And so the legacy from a dirt farmer’s son was to lead the coverage of NCAA sports to the nation. To be the first to broadcast live sports coverage from behind the Iron Curtain in 1958. And his voice would go on to thrill college football fans around the nation.

Jackson’s versatility would place him behind the microphone for Olympic games, the Super Bowl, the World Series, NCAA bowl games, and the ever changing format of ABC’s Wide World of Sports.  He was a sportscaster, a professional, but above all a gentleman. Regardless of whether you see him as more Washington or Washington State, you should know that the State of Washington benefited mightily from the charisma of this man. Rest In Peace, Keith Jackson.