Fred Huff, 94, dies

Columbus, OH — Fred A. Huff, 94, writer, historian and promoter of Southern Illinois athletics and entertainment, died March 18, 2023, at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. The cause was respiratory failure.

For over 35 years, Mr. Huff distinguished Southern Illinois University and its Salukis as one of the nation’s most recognized athletic programs. His tenure as sports information director spanned 1960-1971 and 1983-2001, while also serving as assistant director of athletics from 1977-1986.

During SIU’s golden sports era of the 1960s, the Salukis won 10 national championships, in addition to the 1967 National Invitation Tournament. Also during the decade, SIU hosted four NCAA national championships.

Mr. Huff was honored with induction into six halls of fame: St. Louis Sports in 2017; Du Quoin High School Athletics in 2015; College Sports Information Directors of America in 2012; Missouri Valley Conference in 2010; Saluki Athletics in 2000; and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association in 1995.

His induction into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame prompted Mike Reis, the longtime voice of the Salukis, to remark, “Fred is an unbelievably hard worker and a stickler for details, which helped me a lot when I was first starting out.”

Reis added that Mr. Huff provided great advice for athletic directors, especially for Gale Sayers, who was not familiar with the region.

“Gale relied heavily on him and Fred delivered. Fred gave his heart and soul to Southern,” Reis said.

In 1971, Mr. Huff was named publicity director of the Du Quoin State Fair; and in 1972, assumed overall management of Hayes Fair Acres and the Fair’s annual exposition and celebrity showcase.

His promotion of harness racing’s premier event, the Hambletonian, enhanced not only the trotting classic but earned Du Quoin national stature from 1957 through 1980.

Jane Hayes Rader, granddaughter of Du Quoin State Fair founder W.R. Hayes, put Mr. Huff’s contributions to the event alongside that of her family at the ribbon-cutting of the 100th Fair in 2022.

“I’m grateful for my grandfather W.R., my father Gene, my uncle Don, my brother Bill, and grateful to the inimitable Fred Huff, who together ran this Fair for 56 years,” Mrs. Rader noted.

Born in Danville, Ill., in 1929, and a Du Quoin resident since 1931, Mr. Huff held a lifelong dedication to the city, where he met and later married Ann Gaerig in 1950. She preceded him in death in December 2022.

Hometown pride led to leadership of various programs, including Du Quoin’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2003, with his newspaper features about the town’s unsung residents; perpetuation of the Elks annual high school all-sports banquet; and the Du Quoin Chamber of Commerce.

As a result, his efforts were recognized as the 2003 Du Quoin Citizen of the Year, and in 2011, the Du Quoin District 300 Educational Foundation Outstanding Community Citizen Award.

Mr. Huff’s published works include: Saluki Sports History: 100 Years of Facts & Highlights; The Hambletonian – 1926-1975; The History of the Du Quoin State Fair (1923-2002); and Du Quoin High School Football History (1928-2009).

As reported in a rare personal interview, “Fred Huff was a man with many stories to tell and to write about.”

He is survived by his children, Carol Ann, Susan Huff Smith (John), and Fred Joseph; grandson, Christopher Spiller; and great-grandsons, Caden Spiller and Coltin (Kara) Spiller. He was preceded in death by his parents, Fred Augustus and Mary Elizabeth Huff; and his sister, Mary Elisabeth Moody.

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Du Quoin, Friday (March 24) at 10 a.m. Visitation is at Searby Funeral Home, Du Quoin, Thursday (March 23) from 5-8 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the NubAbility Athletics Foundation of Du Quoin or SIH Foundation in Carbondale.

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