For 54 years William "Bill" Van Horne chronicled Ohio Valley sports with a passion, love and knowledge of sports that is respected and remembered six years after his death.
Born in Martins Ferry March 9, 1921, Van Horne was graduated from Martins Ferry High School in 1939. Following graduation, he attended a crash, six-week course at Northwestern University for outstanding high school journalism students. When the Martins Ferry Times Leader's sports editor was called to war in 1941, Van Horne was hired as his replacement.
His first week on the job found him covering Martins Ferry High School's quest for the high school basketball championship, giving him something of a baptism by fire.
Van Horne retained the sports editor position at the Times Leader for 25 years before moving on to hold the same position at the Wheeling & Sunday News Register for 29 years.
Over the course of his career, Van Horne received numerous awards for his sports journalism. He was named "West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year, 1972." He was awarded West Virginia Wrestling Sportswriter of the Year honors three times, and in '93, he received the West Virginia Press Association's award for "Best Sports Columnist."
Known for his truth and fairness in reporting, Van Horne also was admired because he considered no sporting event too large or small to chronicle. From high school wrestling and track and field events to college bowl games, Major League Baseball All-Star Games to the LPGA tour, Van Horne found pleasure in covering all sports. One of his greatest thrills came in 1960, when Tiltonsville's Bill Mazeroski belted his historic home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series to defeat the Yankees and give the Pittsburgh Pirates the World Championship title.
Van Horne's 54-year career afforded him the opportunity to follow the rise of many promising Ohio Valley high school athletes to their respective professional careers. Mazeroski, John Havlicek, Phil and Joe Niekro, Lou and Alex Groza and Bobby Douglas are among those with whom Van Horne maintained professional and personal ties. In 1989, all of them attended a testimonial dinner honoring Van Horne, which drew 850 people.
Van Horne broadcast play-by-play accounts of local high school football and basketball games on WTRF Radio during the late '40s and early '50s. He served as announcer for numerous OVAC and District wrestling tournaments, as well as official scorekeeper for those events.
He was a member and past president of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association and the Football Writers of America. He was the first sportswriter from West Virginia to be elected to the Football Writers of America Board of Directors, and he served as the state chairman for the Heisman Trophy selection committee.
In his hometown of Martins Ferry, Van Horne was a community leader serving on the Recreation Board and as president and member of the Martins Ferry Rotary Club. After moving to his adopted community of Wheeling, he was a charter member of the Wheeling Hall of Fame Board.
He was named the Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Man of the Year in 1992. The grandstands of the Wheeling Jesuit University Outdoor Athletic Complex were dedicated and named for Van Horne in a posthumous ceremony held Sept. 4, 1998.
Twice married, Van Horne has a daughter and granddaughter. Gladys Van Horne of Wheeling is his widow.