Eckman was born in Salem, Oregon, in 1942 to Harriett Wiseman Eckman and Bruce Page Eckman. He died on November 4 in Atlanta. He was 81.
After high school, he attended Washington State University, graduating in 1965 with a degree from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. In 2015, he received the Man of the Year award from his alma mater.
Eckman joined the newsroom of KOIN-TV in Portland, then moved to KATU-TV and KEX radio, where he became the sports director. He was named Oregon Sportscaster of the Year twice, for his coverage of Oregon State football, basketball and Triple-A baseball. He moved to San Diego to cover the NBA’s Rockets, and he went with the team when they relocated to Houston.
After Houston, it was back to the West Coast, where he worked as the sports director and anchor for the San Francisco Giants and the Stanford Cardinals. Then he jumped to TV broadcasting for the Oakland Raiders and co-hosted the Kenny Stabler Show. He received a Kennedy Foundation National Award for producing a series featuring athletes with developmental disabilities.
In 1978, Eckman and his family moved from San Francisco to Atlanta when he accepted a job as sports director and anchor for WXIA-TV, serving until 1991. In Atlanta, he and his wife Donna Haines Eckman learned there were few educational opportunities for their autistic daughter Christine, so they worked to create a class at Milton High School for students with developmental disabilities.
He was instrumental in the 1979 formation of enABLE, now InCommunity, a non-profit that offers community-based support to families and people with disabilities. It helps them live productive, happy, independent lives with vocational training and in group homes.
He served 35 years on its board. He was also instrumental in founding the Georgia Autism Society. For 13 years, he also directed a high school student athlete awards program, visiting more than 50 schools, charities and service groups annually.
“Art was great,” said Georgia Sheats, CEO of Special Olympics of Georgia. He served on the organization’s board for six years, she said, where he emceed the opening ceremonies and announced the golf tournament.
Eckman spent 20 years with ESPN — covering every sport that used a ball or an engine as well as those that didn’t — before coming to Kennesaw State University, said Whitlock. “We were the last piece of his puzzle. He had covered everything, but he had never worked on the inside of a college sports program.”
Whitlock credits Art with bringing the school’s athletics communications department into the audio-visual world and mentoring younger employees on how to deal with the media. He knew everybody in the sports world in Atlanta, and he opened a lot of doors for KSU and for the athletic director. He worked closely with Whitlock on the school’s football program, “uploading the infrastructure stuff,” by assembling a broadcast team and building a press box.
“He loved building; it was great fun for him,” Whitlock said. “We had to have everything ready before we could even recruit a player.”
The two men met often for breakfast, with Whitlock ordering sausage, grits and eggs, and Eckman “taking care of himself.” Whitlock marveled that Eckman was “nice, really to everyone. You never heard him yell or get upset. He was always calm.”
In addition to his wife, Eckman is survived by his daughters Christine Eckman and Kara Eckman Mecke, and two grandchildren. A celebration of life service was held Friday, Nov. 10. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donating to InCommunity.