Tom Higgins, a legendary newspaper reporter who brought life to NASCAR in the pages of the Charlotte Observer for 33 years, died Tuesday morning. He was 80.
Higgins was a larger-than-life character at the Observer from 1964-97, covering the rise of stock-car racing and its cast of colorful characters as the uniquely Southern sport gained national attention. He suffered a stroke in August 2017 – four days after his 80th birthday – and family members said his health had slowly spiraled downhill in the ensuing 11 months.
“He passed away peacefully,” said Higgins’ daughter, Heather Higgins. “He is suffering no more.”
Although no official records are kept, several Observer editors told Higgins over the years that they believed he had more actual words published in the newspaper than any other writer. It was not unusual for Higgins to have four or five bylines in a single day’s newspaper – his personal record was 12. He had a front-row seat for nearly every big moment in NASCAR history during the 20th century.
In his final column as a full-time Observer employee in 1997, Higgins reflected on how lucky he was to have had the life he wanted and thanked the newspaper’s readers. He concluded the column this way: “As they say back in the mountains of my native Yancey County, I shore ‘preciate it.”
Higgins is survived by two children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
Statement from NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France on the Passing of Tom Higgins
“For more than five decades, Tom Higgins was an ever-present figure in the NASCAR garage. Within the industry, he built a reputation as a trusted and fair voice who delivered our sport to the fans. To those fans, he was a must-read journalist whose reporting was rightly taken as gospel. Simply put, he defined what it meant to be a NASCAR beat reporter. As such, his outstanding career earned him NASCAR’s top honor for journalists, the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence, in 2015. On behalf of the France Family and all of NASCAR, I extend my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Tom Higgins, a true NASCAR media giant.”