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Longtime Bemidji sports editor dies at 93

Jim Carrington, who worked at the the Bemidji Pioneer from 1959-2011, was an icon in the Bemidji sports scene

Carrington Jim 2007.jpg
Jim Carrington, pictured here in 2007, worked at the Pioneer for 52 years and served as the full-time sports editor for 39 years. Carrington died on Saturday, July 2, 2022.
Pioneer file photo
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BEMIDJI -- From his 1959 arrival to his 2011 departure, Jim Carrington hardly took a personal day. If he did, so the legend goes, he feared that he’d return to discover that his job had been stolen.

That’s why he did what he did for 52 years.

“Jim was the most dedicated journalist I've ever worked with,” said Dennis Doeden, former publisher at the Pioneer who worked with Carrington for 10 years. “It seemed like he was never off duty.”

The Pioneer’s longtime sports editor and a celebrity by all accounts within the Bemidji sports scene, Carrington died on Saturday, July 2, at the age of 93.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 9, at First Baptist Church in Bemidji, located at 1555 Paul Bunyan Drive NW.

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Carrington grew up in New Jersey and came to Bemidji in 1954 to do radio work at KBUN, where he was a sportscaster and disc jockey for four years. He transitioned to print in January 1959, becoming the Pioneer’s city editor in a three-person newsroom. Cliff Morlan, a local barber and soon a close friend of Carrington’s, wrote a daily column that served as the paper’s only sports coverage at the time.

But Carrington revolutionized the way athletics were covered in town, and his “second job” of filling out the sports section quickly became a 40-hour task. He took over the sports section that spring and later became the full-time sports editor in 1972.

Yet he wasn’t just a sports scribe. Carrington’s greatest passion came on the diamond, where he founded and coached the Bemidji Braves amateur baseball team for 31 years. He also founded and headed the Northern Lakes Youth Baseball League for 29 years, coaching boys in the 13-15 age bracket. Carrington managed well over 1,000 games and won close to 800 of them.

His estate will be set up to form the Carrington Foundation to support and promote youth baseball and other youth and high school sports.

Carrington was an eccentric man, one buried in stacks of papers going back years and years. But from those stacks, he could pull out exactly what paper he was looking for on a moment’s notice.

Carrington wielded a particular passion for high school athletics, noting that those who competed simply for the love of the game were “the true heroes of sports.”

During his tenure, Bemidji High School athletics grew from a handful of programs to 24. The Lumberjacks produced 27 individual state champions and nine team state champions during the Carrington era.

In 1980, Carrington also began producing a daily column called “Sports Line” and continued it until his retirement 31 years later. It succeeded Morlan’s daily “Sports Review” column that ran for 37 years. Sports Line featured football and volleyball roundups in the fall, basketball, wrestling and hockey highlights in the winter, a baseball roundup in the spring, and bits and bobs of local sports highlights as they happened.

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“He loved his job and he loved writing about Bemidji athletes of all ages,” Doeden said. “There will never be another one like Jim Carrington.”

Carrington never married and isn’t survived by any family. Instead, he adopted thousands of Lumberjacks as his own.

He ended his legendary run at the Pioneer with this line, a befitting finish with a focus still on the future: “And in the words of my beloved friend Cliff Morlan, Go You Jacks and God Bless You All.”

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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