C.A. Dillon Jr., the red-jacketed “soul of Reynolds Coliseum,” whose smooth baritone announced Wolfpack basketball greats for half a century, died at home Thursday. He was 91.
An N.C. State University graduate and sports editor at the student newspaper, The Technician, Dillon took his seat behind the mike in 1946 at the invitation of Coach Everett Case. Three years later, as “C.A. on the P.A.,” he sat center court for the inaugural game at Reynolds, where he celebrated its first-ever swish: “The basket by Bubas!”
Over the next 50 years, Dillon became such a fixture that he missed only two games until 1985 – one for his honeymoon and the other for the death of his mother.
“He has introduced everyone from A to Z,” wrote The News & Observer’s Gerald Martin in 1996, “from the Pack’s Clyde Austin to the Tar Heels’ Serge Zwikker, from Cincy’s Big O to Carolina’s Doug Moe. Fact is, he has called from the bench to the floor just about every All-American whose sneakers squeaked across the Reynolds floor – hardwood or synthetic.”
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A prominent businessman who took no pay for his Wolfpack hobby, he worked as president of downtown Raleigh’s Dillon Supply Co., a company co-founded by his father. Raleigh also knew him for his work with the Kiwanis and active membership at Edenton Street United Methodist Church.
“We were in the same Friday-morning Bible study together,” retired N&O sportswriter A.J. Carr said. “He went partially because he wanted to get to know (former NCSU football coach) Monte Kiffin. But he really became a very devout and devoted Christian man. I really knew him from that perspective most.”
As P.A. announcer, Dillon made a meticulous study of players’ names, meeting with coaches on opposing squads to double-check the tougher ones, notably Bill “Boots” Simonovich of Minnesota.
“I have never knowingly mispronounced a boy’s name,” he said in 1966.
He also served as announcer for football games at Carter-Finley Stadium from 1970 to 1999 and lent his voice to many radio broadcasts, including when the Wolfpack made its first appearance at the Final Four in 1950. But Raleigh knew him for Wolfpack hoops, starting each game with “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to William Neal Reynolds Coliseum. Tonight, North Carolina State University is pleased to host as its guest the basketball team from … ”
In 1974, he saw David Thompson fall mid-game and get rushed to Rex Hospital, and he drew 12,000 relieved sighs when he announced later that the skywalking star would be all right.
“I used to try to be less partial,” he told The N&O in 1996. “In recent years ... I’m much more excited when I announce a 3-point shot for a State player.”
Still, he drew respect from men in different colored blazers. Dean Smith, Hall of Fame coach from UNC-Chapel Hill, always shook hands with Dillon before the Tar Heels met the Wolfpack.
“Dean always used to ask me, ‘How long you going to do this?’ ” Dillon said in 1999. “I always joked and said, ‘I’m trying to outlast you.’ ”
Dillon and his wife Mildred celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary last week. He is survived by his five children, 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Funeral arrangements are pending.