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Doug LaMear, KGW's first sports director, dies at 93

LaMear, the sports director at KGW from 1956 until his retirement in 1991, has died, according to his family.

Doug LaMear, who served as the sports director at KGW from 1956 until his retirement in 1991, has died, according to his family.

LaMear died in his sleep early Monday morning from natural causes, according to his daughter Dianne. He was 93.

According to his biography at the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, LaMear began his career covering sports on the radio in Albany. He moved from Albany to Portland, where he was hired to work at KGW Radio and later, KPOJ Radio. He also called local high-school football games at KVAL.

In 1956, when KGW began television broadcasts, LaMear was hired as the full-time sportscaster.

He also hosted a fishing and wildlife show, "LaMear's Outdoors," late in his career at KGW.

LaMear's wife, Patricia, died in December 2013. Dianne said because her father was a veteran, she believes he'll be buried at Willamette National Cemetery.

The Oregonian contacted retired sports reporters and asked them to reflect on LaMear.

“Doug was Portland’s sportscaster,” said Jeff Wohler, retired sports editor of The Oregonian. “He was the biggest broadcaster in the city. He was a real sports journalist. He worked it. He worked hard, and that is why he was so respected.”

LaMear served in the U.S. Navy in World War II on the U.S.S. Franklin, which went down after a Japanese dive bomber attack.

Retired Oregonian sports writer Norm Maves met LaMear in the 1960s and had this reflection on sportscaster's  Sellwood neighborhood roots and his character.

"Been reading today about the death at 93 of Doug LaMear, the institution in local sports television (KGW) with whom me and my contemporaries grew up in the 1950s. With KOINs’s venerated Johnny Carpenter, he defined an era in television on this city as much as he covered sports.

I knew him, too, and knew him well. So did just about everyone on local sports beats in the 60s. He had every reason to ignore insignificant young small fry like me from his deservedly elevated status, but he never did. He can and did talk to anybody about nearly anything. Even me.

The news stories today tell a good story about his career, but I’d like to add something I learned from him in the early 1990s.

I was working out of the Living section and doing a story on the opening of pool season in Portland Parks. I was collecting anecdotes about the city’s well-known pools, and when it came to the unique, circular Sellwood Pool on SE 7th I somehow wound up talking to Doug.

Doug grew up around Sellwood, and Sellwood tank (that’s what the locals called it then) was where he spent his summer days and learned to swim as a boy in the 1930s.

It came in handy during World War II. Doug was in fire control aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin, which was launching air strikes against the home island of Kyushu in support of the Okinawa landings in March of 1945.

A Japanese dive bomber got through the defensive screen and dropped two armor-piercing bombs with devastating accuracy. One of the bombs, Doug said, went past him about 10 feet away on its way to a lower deck. It exploded below decks and ignited both fuel and munitions.

The history books will tell you the story of the awful devastation. More than 800 American sailors died and nearly 500 were wounded; only the Arizona among Navy ships suffered worse. The crew saved the ship in one of the great bravery stories of the war.

Doug was blown into the water where, he said, he tread water for four hours before a destroyer came and fished him out to safety. He was quick to give credit to his boyhood in Southeast Portland.

“I owe my life,” he said with typical assertiveness, “to Sellwood tank.”

Then he came home and became a sportscaster. Bravo Zulu, sailor."

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