As a reporter – print, radio, television and personal appearances – Derr created essays bringing us face to face with heroes of the last 80 years. Derr interviewed Hall of Famers from almost every sport. He also knew world leaders, royalty, industrialists, entertainers and retained friendship with his favorites – plain ordinary people, like himself.
His contacts included Presidents Hoover, Nixon and Eisenhower, a golfing friend, also golfers Bob Jones, Babe Zaharias, Donald Ross, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, E. Harvie Ward and Tar Heel Johnny Bulla. He had tea on visits with Mohandas Gandhi, whose son, Devandas, arranged their meeting. Baseball friends included Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, whose obituary he voiced from Paris. CBS colleagues included Red Barber, Edward R. Murrow and Arthur Godfrey.
Derr’s reports were never sensationalized or exaggerated, which was the mode for reporters during his career. He loved reporting, “telling the story” and he loved people as a two-way street. Their emotional response showed the lasting friendship of those who passed by his Place at The Table in the press boxes of the world.
As he neared 95, John still shared his history, wit and wisdon. Almost daily he stopped by the Old Sport Gallery and Bookshop in downtown Pinehurst, NC. When not on a speaking tour he’d visit and with very little urging would tell about his 128 yard hole-in-one at the age of 91. None since, regrettably, but worth trying.