The woman who broke gender barriers in sports reporting, Mary Garber, died Sept. 21 in Winston-Salem, N.C. She had been an SPJ member for more than 30 years.
Garber was born April 19, 1916. She graduated in 1938 from Hollins College (now University) in Virginia with a philosophy degree. Although she didn't study journalism, Garber went to work after college writing for the general news and society pages of Winston-Salem's Twin City Sentinel. Her transition to sports writing came during World War II, when the regular male sports writers were drafted into military service. In 1946, she was placed permanently on the sports staff.
Aware of her underdog status as a female in a male-dominated profession, Garber tried to give back to other underrepresented populations. She covered athletics at black high schools and colleges during a time when most news reporters overlooked such sporting events.
In 2005, Garber became the first woman to receive the Associated Press Sports Editors Red Smith Award, given annually for major contributions to sports journalism. The Association for Women in Sports Media presents an annual honor, the Mary Garber Pioneering Award, for female role models in sports journalism.