Spotlight on Bob Greenway

ROBERT M. GREENWAY--55 years later

            By Danny Ferguson with comments from Jim Morris


     INTRODUCTION:  On February 12th, 2019, Bobby and I met and had an absolute great 1 ½  hours, shooting the breeze and trading off our life experiences, which covered a span of over 74 years x two.  I thought I had done a lot of stuff, but Bobby’s lifetime experiences are beyond any dream one could imagine, particularly if you are a sports enthusiast.  I could hardly wait to write down some of the things I learned and get them out to my RJR classmates.

     Bobby is the same old Bobby that we remember from high school.  In our conversation, he seemed as interested in my life as I was in his.  Nevertheless, as I listened, drooling with envy, I soon knew that he had seen and done some extraordinary things, and I quickly began shooting questions to him, trying to extract some of these fantastic experiences to put in this article. In this give-and-take conversation, we both really had fun. Bobby was very modest and not boastful in any way.  Rather, he replied to my questions matter-of- factly as I sat back and listened to his answers in awe.     

     THE STORY:  Bobby was born in December of 1944 and went to Ardmore Elementary School, then like most of us, in the 8th grade, he headed up the hill to Reynolds High School.  He was well liked by his peers, he was a good student, he played sports, he was in the Key Club, and was inducted into the National Honor Society.  His two best friends were Tommy Thornton and Jimmy Morris.  Sadly, Tommy Thornton is no longer with us, however, I made contact with Jimmy Morris who lives in Oregon, and he was kind enough to contribute some little known, first-hand facts to the story of Bobby Greenway’s earlier years.  Below is what Jimmy said about the young Bobby Greenway:

     “So,” Jimmy Morris begins, “Let’s talk a bit about Mr. Bob Greenway at Reynolds High. Of course, there really isn't that much, but at the time it seemed like we were living large!”

     “Bobby and I met in the 8th grade in English class. He had come to RJR from Ardmore, whereas I came from Whitaker. Somehow we started talking, and I learned that he had recently moved to Nottingham Road, just on the other side of Forsyth Country Club and not too far from my house off of Forest Drive.

      We got to be friends, and spent much time together in school. We were not unlike the "Odd Couple" at RJR. He was the "neat freak" Felix and I was the "slob" Oscar. Strangely, that description is still true more than 50 years later. We often double dated together - usually movies and Staley's. We both loved sports, played par 3 at Tanglewood or shot baskets at my house. Bob didn't get the family car very often; his step-dad was pretty hard on him, to tell the truth, and there were many times I'd go to pick him up, only to learn that his "pass" had been cancelled at the last minute. I know that was humiliating for Bobby, but we took it in stride.

     When we weren't dating anybody, we had a great penny poker game on Friday nights. Yep, we literally played for pennies. Bobby usually won. The game included Burt Fitts, David Meschan, Bob Blair, Mickey Zauber and me. Following one of games, somebody suggested that we try some food that was completely strange to most of us: PIZZA. Yep, at the age of 17, many of us had never tried pizza. So off we went to the College Inn, on Reynolda near the RJR baseball field. It was absolutely delicious - still my all time favorite pie. Paul, the owner, was a kind and generous soul, and more than once happily replaced a pizza if we thought it wasn't perfect.

     One night, Bob Blair's appetite got the better of him and he ate his first pizza then ordered another, which he promptly devoured. Apparently he barely made it home before "losing" his entire meal. The sad part was that Bob never ate another pizza after that trauma. Personally, I can't imagine a life without pizza.

     During high school summers we did the usual: cruise Stratford road, eat hot dogs at the Chuck Wagon and Staley Specials (triple burgers) at Staleys and just circle around the Triangle.

     More than once we headed for Myrtle Beach after school, staying at the Driftwood a couple of times. A particularly ignominious afternoon found us throwing cherry bombs into a dune side pond at Windy Hill. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Sure enough, we never heard the sheriff sneaking up in his Studebaker Hawk on the other side of the dunes. Busted!

     The vertically challenged sheriff gave us the opportunity to rat out the dealer who sold us the "bombs" - and we sang like canaries! Even so, we were taken to the Windy Hill Jail, where the others were held in "protective custody" while I (the car owner) drove all the way back to Myrtle Beach to try and raise our bail. I remember knocking on many doors before raising the needed bail cash, much of it in small change.

     By the time I got back to the Windy Hill jail, my pals - Bobby included - had become good friends with the diminutive Sheriff. Consequently, the bail money served as total payment of our fines and we were "free to go".

     Other than that, we were pretty law-abiding during school (and since, as far as I know). During college, I would sometimes drive all the way from Hampden-Sydney College in central Virginia to Chapel Hill to visit Bobby and Mickey (room mates) and share some pizzas at the Rathskeller - a great and much missed restaurant on Franklin Street. I remember one amazing evening when we all caught the Johnny Cash and June Carter show live in the middle of Franklin!

     Another time we got to Woolen gym just in time to grab seats behind the team as the Heels played Duke. As students, I'm not even sure we had to pay. Dean Smith was in his early tenuous years and was barely older than we were. Times HAVE changed.

     One of the joys of my life has been the uninterrupted friendship with Bobby and his family (wife Janie, son Rory and daughter Molly). We have shared trips together, spent time at home with both families, and maintained our "high school" connection throughout. We each have many friends in our "regular lives", but there is no end to the bond we built at those penny poker games and Myrtle Beach adventures. Bobby is truly my "friend for a lifetime".

     Well, Danny, enough blathering for now. Hope that helps with your story.”

     “Thanks Jimmy, for giving us the real scoop on Bobby,” I reply.  “Now, to continue:”

    Upon high school graduation in 1962, Bobby received an academic scholarship to North Carolina State University and attended there for a little over one year, majoring in electrical engineering.  Somewhere, during his second year, he decided that engineering was not for him, and he transferred to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in English and minoring in Latin.          

     After graduation, the Viet Nam war was going on and instead of waiting for his draft notice, Bobby joined the Air Force, went through officer training and ended up going to Viet Nam.  He was stationed at various places, including Than Son Nhut Airbase near Saigon but took numerous trips out into the country side. A time came for a physical exam, which took place at Cam Ron Bay near the South China Sea, where the military doctor discovered that Bobby suffered from severe knee impairment, so bad that he was not actually fit for military service.  Soon, Bobby received an honorable discharge under medical conditions with full GI bill college benefits and was headed home. 

      In 1971, Bobby enrolled at UNC law school and three years later received his JD degree. He went to work for a real estate law firm in Hollywood, Florida, but only stayed one year, deciding that this was not what he wanted to do.

      NOW, what I am about to tell you is the absolute truth, although I had to extract it from Bobby, which was almost like pulling teeth.  I promise you that if these things had happened to me, I would have been blurting them out on a loud speaker, bragging to the world, but not Bobby.  As I sat on the edge of my seat, prodding him to tell me more about his exciting experiences, Bobby was very modest and totally nonchalant and matter of fact.  

    So, finally, Bobby ended up in New York City, looking for a job and hoping to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. Based on a whim, he put in an application for a job at the ABC Television Network. He knew it was a lark and that the odds of his getting the job there were astronomical.  But, then, WOW!  Low and behold, somehow, he actually landed the this dream job at ABC Sports, which was then headed by the legendary Roone Arledge.  And, on top of that, it was just in time for the Montreal Olympics in 1976.  His job at ABC Sports including, working in programming, managing all of television football telecasts as well as the Wide World of Sports.  This dream job would open the door for a career that most of us would have died for.  

        Bobby stayed with ABC Sports, including the Wide World of Sports until the beginning of 1980. While there, he met many legendary sports figures, traveled the world, and saw fantastic sports events.  In fact, during this time period, he attended so many Super Bowls that after a while, attending the Super Bowl games became old hat and he would often forgo staying for the game and leave for home on Sunday morning to beat the traffic.    Bobby stayed with ABC Sports until the beginning of 1980 when he was hired by ESPN, which had launched in 1979. At ESPN, he was the man who brought much of the original programing to the network. From there, in 1981, he went to HBO, where he served as Vice President of Sports Programming and helped create many world championship boxing matches and negotiate a lot of the most important matches with famed boxing promoter, Don King. (To remind you, Don King’s  career highlights included multiple other enterprises, promoting such boxers as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio César as well as promoting such boxing events as "The Rumble in the Jungle " and the "Thrilla in Manila".  During this time, Bobby became personal friends with celebrities such as the great Sugar Ray Leonard and others.

   And the list goes on and on:  For instance, do you remember the A Team with Mr. T (Laurence Tureaud)?  Bobby used to actually hang out with the legendary Mr. T.  Also, he has worked and spent time with many other Hollywood and sports celebrities.  To name a few would include sportscaster Howard Cosell, Tiger Woods, Gene Hackman, and virtually all of the golf greats. He also spent some time with Willie Mays, Tim McCarver, Arthur Ashe, and Billie Jean King.

       In 1993, Bobby was recruited by the Golf Channel. In fact, other than founder, Joe Gibbs (not the football coach) and Gibb’s four original employees, and other than Arnold Palmer, Bobby was the first person hired by the Golf Channel. Bobby was placed in charge of the channel’s programing, production, operations, international development, and new business.  At its height, roughly 80% of the Golf Channels 350 employees were under Bobby’s supervision.

   A few weeks after beginning this job, Bobby was at the Senior Open Championship in the United Kingdom.  There at the hotel lounge, after the first round, Bobby had his first opportunity to meet the legendary Arnold Palmer.  As time went on, Bobby would get to know Arnold Palmer quite well.  On one occasion, he and Palmer had played golf together, and after the match, they were in the bar and he asked Arnold what he was drinking.  “An ‘Arnold Palmer’, of course,” the great golfer responded.   “Hmm,” Bobby declared, “that’s what I’ll have too.”   A cocktail in a tall glass filled with ice and clear liquid was served to him.  Bobby took a sip of what turned out to be straight vodka.  As he swallowed, Bobby felt a moment of euphoria, like he was living this unbelievable fantasy. Here I am, he thought, I have just played golf with Arnold Palmer, now I’m sitting in the bar with Arnold Palmer, I am talking to Arnold Palmer, and I’m drinking an Arnold Palmer.”     Is this really happening? Maybe I should pinch myself. 

   During his career, Bobby attended nearly every major sports event numerous times:  Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA Final Fours, Wimbledon, U.S. Tennis Opens, the Four Golf Majors, the Ryder Cup, numerous boxing matches including Leonard-Duran, Leonard-Hearns, and Hagler-Hearns.  He even saw Tyson’s incredible upset by Buster Douglas in Tokyo as well as all of Tyson’s other fights. 

    There is so much more to tell, but suffice it to say, using Jimmy Morris’s words – Bobby was living large. Furthermore, let me add that I have never met anyone who has seen so much in the sports world -   and who would have thought it would have been our great friend, our own RJR62 Bobby Greenway from Ardmore.

     Bobby married his wife, Jane, in 1982, and they have been happily married for 37 years. They have a son, Rory, who lives in Portland, Oregon (who Bobby and Jane visit at least annually and while out there they visit our own favorite Oregonian, Jimmy Morris.  Bobby and Jane also have a daughter, Molly, who lives in Brooklyn.   The Greenways have lived all over the country and traveled all over the world, but actually they have spent much time in New York City. By the time you are reading this article, they will have moved back to New York City to their coop, which overlooks the East River   Oh, what a life! 

    It was such a pleasure hearing about Bobby and Jane’s lifetime experiences, and I think I can safely say that we are all very proud of them and wish them well.  Maybe we will get to see them at our Sixtieth.