Prominent sportscaster killed in I-40 accident

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Paul Eells, the "voice of the Razorbacks" whose trademark "Touchdown, Arkansas!" call endeared him to generations of sports fans, was killed Monday night in a head-on collision on Interstate 40 that also took the life of another driver, police said.

Eells had also had a successful television and radio career in Nashville, including broadcasting Vanderbilt University sports.

Eells, 70, had served as sports director of Little Rock television station KATV for nearly three decades and also delivered play-by-play coverage of Arkansas Razorbacks football and basketball for radio and television.

Scoring plays weren't the only events that drew a characteristic response from Eells. Viewers or listeners perked up when they heard him utter the mild exclamation "Oh, my!" because they knew something interesting had happened on the field or the court.

Gov. Mike Huckabee described Eells as "a great man and true Arkansas icon."

In a statement Tuesday, he called for state flags to fly at half staff on the day of Eells' funeral and for prayers for Eells' family. "The reason that Paul Eells was so beloved in this state was not only for his unmatched professional skills .... but for his authentic optimism, kindness, and thoughtfulness," the governor said.

A police report said Eells' car, eastbound near the Arkansas 331 exit from I-40, crossed the median and collided in the westbound lanes with a car driven by Billie J. Burton, 40, of Dover. Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene after the accident at 8:13 p.m., the report said.

Eells was returning to his home at Little Rock after participating in a golf tournament for sports figures and the media at Fayetteville. He had also interviewed Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt for KATV during the visit to northwest Arkansas, according to the television station.

Eells, a West Branch, Iowa, native, joined the staff at KATV in 1978, and was widely known by sports fans in Arkansas as well as reporters, editors and broadcasters across the South.

He was named Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year 11 times and was also honored with the Associated Press award for best sports play-by-play several times.

A graduate of the University of Iowa, he began his broadcast career with radio station KOKX in Keokuk, Iowa, as an announcer. He then moved to WMT in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as sports director where he did play-by-play for his alma mater. He was sports director at WSM radio and television in Nashville, Tenn., from 1967 until his move to KATV in 1978.

While at WSM, he did play-by-play for Vanderbilt University in addition to covering Tennessee regional high school sports. Eells is survived by his wife, Vickie, a son and two daughters.

A predecessor of Eells' as sportscaster at KATV, longtime television personality Bud Campbell - likewise widely identified with the Arkansas Razorbacks - also died in an automobile accident, in 1974.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)