OPINION: THE IDLE AMERICAN – Two giants make exits

Published 8:40 am Saturday, January 8, 2022

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As the old year ended, so did the lives of two one-of-a-kind icons, one in the world of sports and the other in theology.

They died four days apart, 85-year-old John Madden in California, and almost 101-year-old Dr. John W. (Jack) MacGorman in Fort Worth, TX. (Dr. MacGorman was born on the day after Christmas in 1920, and died on Christmas Eve, 2021.)

Though their interests and professional fields seemed to differ greatly, both men had the rare ability to endear themselves to others. As a Hall of Fame Coach/turned broadcaster/turned video game mogul, Madden was considered incomparable in the world of football. In theology, few others compared to Dr. MacGorman. Both men leave immense voids.

Madden was all about football, having played and coached the sport at all levels, compiling the best NFL winning percentage of all time during his dozen-years on the sidelines. Super Bowl winner with the Oakland Raiders at age 40, he left coaching two years later, ending a decade at Oakland and vowing never to coach again.

Soon, he was making TV commercials, increasingly comfortable in front of cameras. With his “scruffy” appearance, pad-scrawling football plays and colorful descriptions, Madden was beloved by both those who knew him well and millions of others who wished they had. He was every man, remembered not for proper English and spiffy clothes, but more so for his down-to-earth style which fits the “common as an old shoe” expression. Most remember his being well clothed with his wardrobe of colorful words.

“BOOM” was a word he used emphatically in TV booths. He was also fond of “BOING!”

“Eccentric” might apply to Madden, but how about “unique” instead?

Admittedly claustrophobic and flying only when he had to, Madden opted to travel on his “Madden Cruiser” during his almost three decades as a TV football analyst.  Perhaps he learned most about himself and others on that “fancied-up” bus.

Meanwhile, Virginia, his wife for more than a half-century, was a licensed pilot, and for a time, owned a plane.

A Nova Scotia born theologian, Dr. MacGorman moved westward when pneumonia persisted. He was headed for Arizona when he ran out of funds in Fort Worth.

As beloved as he was broadminded, he was a renowned biblical scholar, holding Th.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Duke University, respectively.

During his 53-year tenure at SWBTS, more than 20,000 students sat in his classes, with most becoming pastors or missionaries. He and his late wife Ruth were married 71 years, parenting four sons and two daughters. As senior adults, they adopted and reared two pre-school grandchildren. Old-time colleagues remember Dr. MacGorman’s comments when he became an “instant” parent decades after their natural children were born. “Timothy is having trouble pronouncing his ‘r’s’,” he said. Other faculty roared with laughter, noting that his Scottish brogue didn’t include traditional “r” pronunciation, either.

Like Madden, Dr. MacGorman was a friend to all, never abandoning his calling or his deeply-held beliefs. “Few graduates and faculty members have been as deeply admired as Dr. MacGorman,” believes Dr. Jimmie Nelson, himself a graduate of Southwestern and a longtime colleague.

Always true to his conscience, Dr. MacGorman once objected to signing the seminary’s Articles of Faith. Pressed to provide a signature, he signed a New Testament. Asked to “referee” a theological issue between two “poles-apart” students, Dr. McGorman refused, saying he could better serve his Lord “with a broken heart than with a guilty conscience.”

One of Southwestern’s most imposing buildings is the  Dr. John W. (Jack) McGorman Conference Center which opened two decades ago at a cost of $11 million.

Both Madden and Dr. MacGorman died suddenly, devoid of lingering illnesses.

Madden died three days after watching his 90-minute TV documentary with family and friends on Christmas Day.

Once asked if NFL great Earl Campbell was “in a class by himself,” late Coach “Bum” Phillips answered, “If he’s not, it don’t take long to call the roll.” Ditto for “Mr. NFL Football” John Madden and religious leader Dr. Jack MacGorman.


Dr. Newbury, long-time university president, continues to write and speak to groups and organizations of all types. Contact him at 817-447-3872; email, newbury@speakerdoc.com, Facebook, don newbury, and Twitter, @donnewbury.