GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Hubert Mizell's home office was a sports museum, with pictures of famous athletes hanging on the walls and mementos from a storied career spanning more than four decades all around.
Muhammad Ali. Jack Nicklaus. Billy Martin. Pete Rozelle. Doug Williams. Jackie Gleason. Mizell interviewed them all, and had keepsakes from each one.
Now, his office will serve as a tribute to the longtime and distinguished St. Petersburg Times columnist.
Mizell died at his Gainesville home Thursday - with his wife and son by his side - after nearly a week in hospice care. He was 76.
His son, Kevin, confirmed his death to The Associated Press. Kevin said his father had been dealing with diabetes, kidney problems and congestive heart failure. Hubert hadn't been very coherent for the ''the last three or four days,'' Kevin said.
Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Knight, broadcaster Bob Costas and ESPN commentator Dick Vitale were among the first to call and offer condolences, Kevin said.
''It's been pretty incredible to see how many people he affected over the years,'' Kevin said.
Born in Georgia and raised in nearby Jacksonville, Hubert Mizell's first job in sports was as a 14-year-old usher at Durkee Field in Jacksonville. It was there he first saw a youngster named Hank Aaron playing for the Jacksonville Braves.
Mizell got a job as a newspaper carrier for The Florida Times-Union and later started answering phones and taking stats in the paper's sports department for $1 an hour. He eventually became a sports writer, working at the Orlando Sentinel, the Times-Union and the AP.
Mizell started at the St. Petersburg Times in December 1973, chronicling the early years of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
''Hubert Mizell's name is legendary in sportswriting,'' the Bucs said in a statement. ''His dedication to the craft left a lasting mark and impacted millions of people in this region and beyond. Mr. Mizell was a true tribute to his profession. Our condolences go out to his family, friends, and all those who loved and admired him.''
Mizell was chosen national sports columnist of the year in 1982 from among America's largest newspapers and eight times was voted Florida Sports Writer of the Year. Mizell is a member of the College Basketball Writers Hall of Fame.
He covered 40 Masters and another 50 major championships in golf, 32 Super Bowls, 30 Final Fours, 25 World Series, 23 Daytona 500s, 22 Kentucky Derbies, nine Wimbledon tennis championships and a host of college football bowl games, according to his WCJB-TV bio. Mizell did twice weekly sports commentaries for the Gainesville station in retirement.
Mizell and his wife, Marcy, were married in 1965 - they just celebrated their 51st anniversary - and moved to Gainesville in 2004.
He attended Florida Gators football and basketball games until just a few weeks ago.
''We are sad to hear of the passing of Hubert Mizell. Hubert was a respected member of the Gainesville community in his retirement and a giant in the history of Florida journalism,'' Florida spokesman Steve McClain said. ''Our thoughts and prayers go out to Hubert's family and friends.''
Mizell is survived by his wife and son.