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Voice of the Cougars Paul James, 87, dies at his home after long illness

Paul James, former KSL sportscaster, in his home with some of the many paintings he has created.
Paul James, former KSL sportscaster, in his home with some of the many paintings he has created.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PROVO — Paul James, voice of the BYU Cougars and longtime KSL-TV anchor and radio sportscaster, died at his home Saturday, Oct. 6, after a long illness. He was 87.

James, an active painter and reader in retirement, and world traveler all his life, had been confined to his home before his death, employing a health-care provider after suffering several strokes, according to his son Steve, as reported to KSL TV sportscaster Rod Zundel.

James joined anchorman Dick Nourse and weatherman Bob Welti at KSL, and the trio developed a vibrant and popular chemistry. All three were inducted into the Utah Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2000. The trio worked together for 24 years, the longest running tenure by any three in the history of television.

“I’ve always appreciated the enthusiasm, preparation, professionalism Paul put into his work," said longtime KSL radio color commentator Marc Lyons. "I loved the inflection he put in his voice when he’d call out ‘touchdown’ and it was the same for either team who scored one.”

“He was always known as ‘The Voice,' in our office,” said former BYU sports information director Ralph Zobell. “Whenever we referenced him, he was The Voice. He was universally known everywhere he went. He was always very kind and talented. He did incalculable research before a game and was a wealth of knowledge statistically. Yet, those who traveled with him got to see a tender Paul, who loved to entertain and visit with people."

James had a unique, deep, booming voice and his emotion and performance behind a microphone became a household sound in many homes throughout the state. He used a technique taught to him by his high school speech teacher, according to Zobell.

James witnessed some 1,300 games during his 50-year career, calling 450 football games. He was an outgoing, popular speaker and personality who frequently was the center of attraction on cruise ships and gatherings throughout the state.

James, a resident of Salt Lake City, began his career as a broadcaster working part-time for KDYL-TV and radio in the 1950s. He eventually did play-by-play for the University of Utah football and basketball games, then moved to KSL and began covering BYU games in 1965 and became the sports director, a job he held until 1991.

James was born in Ogden on July 17, 1931. He was student body president at Ogden High when the school was the largest in the state. His father George was one of the men who helped build the now 100-year-old high school. He married Annette Greenwell on Feb. 2, 1951, and they had four children and 11 grandchildren. Annette preceded Paul in death after 62 years of marriage.

After retiring from KSL in 1989, James took up painting, selling thousands of prints of his artwork, some originals going for as high as $3,000. He was an accomplished pianist and bridge player. He was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation the same night as Bill Marcroft, the voice of the Utes.

Funeral services will be Oct. 16 at Memorial Murray Mortuary, 5850 S. 900 East in Murray. A viewing will begin at 10:30 a.m. followed by services at noon.

Correction: A previous version incorrectly stated his funeral would be held at 58 S. 900 East in Salt Lake City. The correct address is 5850 S. 900 East in Murray.