Ray Blakney, who was born Harold Blakney but hated “Harold,” died Friday, March 2, 2018, after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s Disease at the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro.
Blakney was the sports editor at The Courier News from September, 2001, until his retirement in August, 2011.
During his 10-year career at The Courier News Blakney covered sporting events ranging from youth league baseball to college football.
“Ray liked to keep up with players who had graduated from the two high schools and had gone on to college careers,” The Courier News Editor Ken Leinart said.
“He didn’t just cover their games, he also followed them after their playing days were
Leinart said Blakney was “a
baseball guy” at heart, but he was knowledgeable about all sports.
“He told me what a ‘pitch’ was in soccer — which I didn’t know. He had a lot of knowledge,” Leinart continued.
The Courier News staff members remember Blakney as always ready for a game
of corn hole, and for bowling on Thursdays at the Clinton Community Center.
“He also had a penchant for ice cream and would organize trips to Hoskins Drug Store for sundaes,” Leinart recalled. “In a lot of ways, he was a little kid. He liked to have fun.”
During his 10 years as sports editor at The Courier News, Blakney won a rst place Tennessee Press Association award for “Best Sports Writing,” the only time The Courier News has received that award.
“Ray liked to cover the games. He enjoyed his job. But I think he enjoyed covering the players more. He really liked it when they succeeded — and not just on the playing eld,” Leinart said.
Blakney graduated from Pickwick Southside High School in 1964, where he played both basketball and baseball.
After graduating from high school, he enrolled in the fall of 1964 at the University of Tennessee at Martin, but the United States Marine Corps would later have other plans for him.
In January of 1967, between boot camp and deployment, he married his childhood sweetheart, Kay (Rich) Blakney of Savannah and, though they would ultimately divorce later, the two were married for 46 years and raised two children together.
From June 1967 until July 1968, Ray served in Vietnam as a military journalist, both writing for the Marine Corps and leading the dangerous task of escorting civilian journalists as close to the front lines of battle as they dared. His work was published in the US military newspaper Stars & Stripes and the USMC’s weekly Sea Tiger newspaper, which was disseminated throughout Vietnam during the war.
“Ray would come in the of ce and he’d have a load of material from the Vietnam war,” Leinart said.
“He volunteered his time at schools talking about Vietnam, giving the kids an eyewitness account of the war.”
Blakney was true to the legend, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.”
Leinart said there was an opportunity to send a reporter to Parris Island, S.C., to do a story on Marine boot camp.
“I though of Ray right off the bat for two reasons — because he was a Marine and because there was a kid who had graduated from one of the high schools who was at Parris Island at the time and Ray knew him,” Leinart said.
“I think he enjoyed that. I know he did a great job with the story.”
Ray’s mother and father and his sister Janice Blakney Swift pre-deceased him, as well as his beloved dog Josie, whom he technically (but affectionately) stole from his nephew Greg. He is survived by his daughter Tasha Blakney and her husband Michael and their two children Caroline and Katie (“the Muf ns”) of Knoxville; his son Matthew and his wife Kelly and their two children Lucas and Lilly of Murfreesboro; his brother Lowell Blakney of Counce and his family; his beloved nieces and nephews Tim, Greg, Jana, Chris, Carol, and Angie, along with their families, most of whom continue to reside in West Tennessee. He also had friends and caregivers who were like family to him, including the very special members of the healthcare team at the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro, where Ray resided during the last stages of his disease.
Ray Blakney was laid to rest among the members of his family who went before him at Shanghai Cemetery in Counce on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, at 1 p.m., where he received military honors. Shackleford Funeral Directors handled arrangements. The family expresses gratitude for any tributes you wish to make on behalf of Ray’s memory, and requests that you consider his preference that donations be made in his honor to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis or to First Baptist Church in Counce.
A Graveside Service was held March 6, 2018, at the Shanghai Cemetery in Counce.