Longtime outdoor writer and North Carolina resident Bodie McDowell died at home Friday night, February 2, with his wife Shirley and two of his daughters by his side. He is lovingly remembered as a devoted husband, father, and friend who had a keen sense of humor and never met a stranger.
Before embarking on a notable career as an outdoor journalist, he and Shirley lived in Alaska for a short time. The Last Frontier stirred his adventurous spirit when he served in the Army there in the early ‘50s. He and his family continued to enjoy traveling as long as he was able.
A native of Greenwood, S.C., McDowell began his writing career in the Sports department at the Greenwood (S.C.) Index Journal in the late 1950s. When he was moved from sports to general news, he took it upon himself to occasionally include stories about the outdoors. “People liked it, so I kept at it,” McDowell recalled. Then he joked, “Both readers liked it.”
By 1961 he was writing one outdoor column per week for the Journal and was recruited one year later by the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle. As a lover of ball sports, it’s no surprise that McDowell found his way to Augusta National for the Masters Golf Championship. There he met Smith “Smitty” Barrier, then-editor of the Greensboro (N.C.) Daily News & Record. Two years later, in 1964, McDowell and Barrier revisited the idea of working together. McDowell was hired on the spot, pending approval from the managing editor. “In the meantime,” Barrier said, “I want you to go to Fontana Village, N.C., next weekend. They’re organizing a Southern outdoor writer’s group up there.” McDowell attended the meeting and was elected vice president of what became the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA). He then joined the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and was nominated to the board. He worked his way through those chairs and established the organization’s scholarship, which was later named in his honor.
Believing that everybody has a story, McDowell got to know the outdoorsmen in his community and counted on them to provide him with story ideas, fishing reports, and leads to other outdoors people. They didn’t let him down. Before long, “Bodie” was a household name to anybody in Piedmont North Carolina who kept up with fishing, hunting, camping, and other traditional outdoors sports through the Greensboro newspaper where he worked until 1992. He then joined the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and served as the agency’s first Public Information officer until he retired in 2000. In 1988, the Commission named the striper-white bass hybrid after McDowell, dubbing it the Bodie Bass in honor of his dedication to promoting the outdoors and conservation of our natural resources.
McDowell’s career led to ample fishing opportunities in North and South America, and to the development of hundreds of friendships throughout the country. Though he was grateful for those opportunities and the fond memories they provided, he had a special place in his heart for the good farm ponds near Greensboro that he fished with his buddies and children. He also enjoyed assisting individuals and organizations that were instrumental in conducting fishing tournaments, seminars, and sport shows in the area.
Born on January 5, 1929, McDowell celebrated his 95th birthday this year. He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Shirley, and children Lynn Umstead (Allan) of Greensboro, Karen McDowell (James Smith) of Gibsonville, Cheryl Lewis (David) of Elon, Mark McDowell (Lisa) of New London, and Lisa Snuggs (Henry) of Albemarle; grandchildren Nathan Umstead (Kelly), Jessica Trotman (Bart), Jennifer Davis, Matthew Mebane (Kimberly), Daniel Mebane (Beth), Nicholas Mebane (Ali), Logan McDowell, Jared McDowell, Joshua Bodie McDowell; great-grandchildren Ivan, Quincy, Elsa, Ira, Sid, Elliot, Cade, Ramona and Gabe; a sister Nira Spivey of Greenville, S.C., brothers Jack McDowell and Lee McDowell, of Greenwood, S.C., and numerous nieces and nephews.
The family is holding a graveside service at 1 p.m., Tuesday, February 6, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Greensboro. They ask that the next time you cast a line, shoot some clays, or watch your favorite ball team or golfer in action, you remember Bodie with a smile. If you’re so inclined, you may donate to the OWAA Bodie McDowell Scholarship Fund in his memory @ Donate to the Bodie McDowell Scholarship Fund - Outdoor Writers Association of America (owaa.org).