John Underwood went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, at the age of 88.
He was born in Miami, Florida on Nov. 25, 1934 to Edward and Kathryn (Russell) Underwood. He graduated from the University of Miami in 1956 and was a reporter for both the Miami News and Miami Herald before writing for Sports Illustrated (SI) from 1961 to 1985 as a senior editor. John traveled to six continents on assignments with SI, authored 10 books (three of which were New York Times bestsellers), testified before a Senate Subcommittee on NCAA Sports, interviewed President Gerald Ford, wrote an Emmy award-winning documentary, “Jockey,” and was often referred to as the “conscience of sport in America.”
Underwood’s books include, “My Turn at Bat with Ted Williams,” “Bear” (about Coach Bear Bryant), “Fishing the Big Three with Ted Williams,” “The Science of Hitting with Ted Williams,” “Death of an American Game: The Crisis in Football” (got him on the talk show circuit including air time with Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, Merv Griffin, 60 Minutes, etc.), and “When in Doubt Fire The Manager.”
His father was born in the Bahamas, but later moved to Key West, where John would develop a deep love for the ocean and fishing. His legacy in the Florida Keys continues with his son, John Underwood, Jr., whose advertising agency, Tinsley, works with Keys tourism officials to promote and protect the island chain that meant so much to his father.
John was known and admired for treating everyone with respect and kindness. He enjoyed tennis, golf, fishing, boating, hunting, jogging, and bicycling, but his greatest joy was being with family and friends. He was a member of the Orange Bowl Committee and Iron Arrow.
He is survived by his wife, Donna, his six children, Lori (Bruce) Gagne, Kathryn (Craig) Justice, Leslie Cahill, John (Julia) Underwood, Jr., Caroline (Brett) Burman, and Joshua (Ellen) Underwood, 12 grand and five great grandchildren.
The family will have a private celebration of life in Key West, where John had deep roots, spent his childhood summers and, later, took annual pilgrimages with friends and family.