A half century of quality newspaper writing has landed Taylorsville resident Tom Wharton in the Utah Sports Hall of FameSep 11, 2023 01:35PM ● By Carl Fauver
Way back in the days of yore, we accessed our news in a way many now find foreign. Each morning – regardless of Mother Nature’s offering or whether or not we were wearing more than a robe and slippers – we wandered out to our driveway for the news and sports of the day. Well, of yesterday, to be more precise.
Taylorsville resident Tom Wharton thrived in that world. For better than fifty years, his byline appeared in the rubber band-bound edition of The Salt Lake Tribune we braved the outdoor elements to retrieve.
Times change. Salt Lake’s two “daily” newspapers are only available in print twice a week nowadays. They land in your mailbox, or the grocery store, but not in your driveway. And Tom Wharton’s byline isn’t there anymore.
But like hundreds of thousands of our state’s residents, the Utah Sports Hall of Fame induction committee remembers Wharton’s work fondly. That’s why, on Sept. 18, Wharton will join four others – including skiing legends Stein Eriksen (posthumously) and Ted Ligety – in being inducted into its ranks.
“I was going through physical therapy when they called to say I was being inducted,” Wharton said. “I was stunned. It’s the kind of thing you really don’t expect. I feel very honored.”
Wharton moved from Sugarhouse to Taylorsville in 2008. After losing his first wife to cancer and remarrying, he and new bride Nancy wanted to make a fresh start in a home that was just theirs.
“We looked all around and finally found a neighborhood we really liked,” he said. “There are so many good restaurants nearby. I love the ethnic diversity. I was shocked by how much I like it here. We have three parks nearby. We have no regrets.”
This from a man who quite literally may have seen more of our Beehive State than any other living soul, tracking down stories in every nook and cranny Utah has to offer.
“I was the Tribune’s Outdoor Editor for more than thirty years, travelling all over our state,” Wharton said. “In 1998, I became the first president from Utah of the National Outdoor Writers Association of America. I also covered lots of wildlife issues at the state legislature. It was fun.”
Before turning his attention to Utah’s fish and game (and wilderness and byways), Wharton cut his teeth covering high school sports. While working for his Granite High School student newspaper, Wharton entered a writing contest sponsored by The Salt Lake Tribune. When he emerged as one of the winners, the paper allowed him to help cover the 1967 high school state basketball tournament. Little did he know that would begin a streak of covering the annual tournament that required a worldwide pandemic to be broken.
“My first state tournament was in 1967 and I kept the streak alive until COVID-19 cancelled it (in 2020),” Wharton said with pride. “I think high school sports are still my favorite. It’s the last of the amateurs. I have three grandsons at Skyline High School, playing baseball and lacrosse – and running track and cross country. I still enjoy going to their events.”
Wharton also covered “higher level” sports, including possibly the most famous college basketball game of all time: the 1979 championship game played at the University of Utah’s Special Event Center (now the Jon M. Huntsman Center). That’s when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans handed Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores their first loss of the season, 75-64.
“I also covered the Utah Jazz during their first run to the NBA finals (1997) and the Salt Lake Winter Olympics (in 2002),” he added. “That was exciting. But I still prefer high school sports.”
Wharton’s Utah Sports Hall of Fame induction later this month will actually be his second time to be honored this year. This spring he was selected by the Utah High School Activities Association for its Circle of Fame, which “honors individuals who have contributed to their communities in high school activities. It is the highest honor the UHSAA bestows.” (uhsaa.org)
Overlapping Wharton’s 50+ year career at the Tribune were 21 years he spent serving parttime for the Utah Army National Guard.
“I spent my entire time in the Guard Public Affairs Department – so it was more writing,” Wharton said. “I rode in a tank through West Germany during a training exercise. That was one of the highlights. I served in the Guard from 1970 to 1992. I believe I visited 43 or 44 countries.”
About the time Tom and Nancy Wharton made their move to Taylorsville, the handwriting on the wall was becoming much clearer regarding the future of print journalism. It wasn’t good – as witnessed by the fact you’ve not seen your bathrobe-clad neighbor out in his driveway, early morning, anytime recently.
“The Tribune had a round of layoffs in 2008 and my duties began to change,” Wharton said. “I returned as High School Sports Editor for another couple of years. My official retirement date was April 1, 2016. But then I did a little contract writing for them for another couple of years.”
The Wharton’s blended family now includes six children and a dozen grandkids, ages 9 to 28.
The Sept. 18 Utah Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at Salt Lake’s Little America Hotel.
According to the organization’s website (utahsportshalloffame.org), a “charter class” of Hall of Fame inductees was selected in 1970. You can visit their museum for free, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., at 99 W. South Temple, Suite 102.
The Granite High School and University of Utah graduate Wharton reports aside from a few physical challenges life is good in Taylorsville. And he looks forward to joining his fellow Hall of Fame inductees. λ