Only eight names remain from the original SPORTS ILLUSTRATED masthead of Aug. 16, 1954. Sad to say, that number is now reduced to seven as Assistant Managing Editor Jack Tibby retires. He will be missed not only because he contributed so much to the development and eventual success of this magazine, but also because he is that rare human being, a gentleman. His expectations for SI's weekly product were as high as his standards of propriety.
Tibby was born and raised in Pittsburgh. He can remember being taken to Forbes Field by his father, who had been a pitcher for the University of Pittsburgh. Jack also attended Pitt and was editor of the school paper, a position that enabled him to sit in the press box for Panther games.
When he graduated, in 1935, he headed East, armed with a law school scholarship to Columbia, but, noticing that a lot of young lawyers were currently selling shoes, he allowed himself to be sidetracked by the George Gallup organization, then just beginning to establish a reputation as a polling authority. In 1936, under Gallup's byline, Tibby predicted a landslide for Roosevelt, with only three states "safe for Landon"—Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. As it turned out he erred only on the last, while the major competition predicted a Landon landslide.
During World War II Tibby was a lieutenant in the Navy, serving the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, where he edited and clarified mountains of classified material for generals and admirals. After the war, Jack was interviewed for a job with FORTUNE but wound up covering the United Nations for TIME instead. Six months later he began writing for the foreign news section and, in 1948, was promoted to senior editor of the books, religion, art, music, education and—a hint of things to come—sports departments. The man he succeeded as senior editor was Whittaker Chambers.
On an April afternoon in 1954 Jack's phone rang, and on the other end was Henry R. Luce. Luce wondered if Tibby could make it to dinner that evening at his apartment overlooking the East River. Jack said, well, yes, that could be arranged. Upon his arrival, Luce sat him down, handed him a drink and began to discuss his latest venture, a weekly sports magazine, as yet unnamed. Tibby showed enthusiasm and Luce asked if he would join the project as news editor. Tibby agreed and plunged immediately into the editing of Volume 1, Number 1.
Every new magazine has gears that don't quite mesh. Tibby helped get them synced so SI could be published in an orderly way. One of his most important contributions, continuing over the years, has been in enhancing Si's ability to meet "impossible" deadlines—like covering a Sunday evening Super Bowl with many pages of four-color photography and still making a Monday press run. He had a patient hand in scores of other managerial matters, including the hiring of many notable SI staffers, most prominent among them Managing Editor Roy Terrell.
As he retires, "to read Montaigne and other not fully understood authors," Jack offers this bit of advice on an essential aspect of putting out a good magazine. "Find good poets," he says, "and keep them happy."
TIBBY: AMONG THE LAST OF THE FIRST