Woody Durham, longtime voice of the Tar Heels, diagnosed with language expression disorder

Woody Durham, who for 40 years served as the radio play-by-play voice of the North Carolina basketball and football teams, has been diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder that affects his language expression.

In an open letter released on Wednesday, and one that he read aloud in his familiar voice in a clip posted on the school’s official athletics website, Durham said he was diagnosed last winter with primary progressive aphasia.

He made the announcement, in part, because he said he’d no longer be doing any public speaking.

“I can still enjoy the company of friends and traveling with my wife, Jean, but I am not able to address groups as I did in the past,” Durham said. “While learning of this diagnosis was a bit of a shock for Jean and me, and yes, quite an ironic one at that, it also brought a sense of relief to us in terms of understanding what was happening to me and how best to deal with it.”

Durham, 75, became the radio play-by-play voice of the Tar Heels in 1971. He retired in 2011. During his 40 years behind the microphone Durham, a 1963 graduate of UNC, called more than 1,800 UNC games, including national championship victories in basketball in 1982, 1993, 2005 and 2009.

Durham was named North Carolina’s Sportscaster of the Year 13 times. In 2013 he received the Curt Gowdy Award for electronic media from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

In his open letter Durham wrote that his doctors have developed a treatment plan “that will help me manage my day-to-day activities as I continue to enjoy retirement.”

“As in the past, I will continue to attend Carolina functions and sporting events as my schedule permits, and be part of civic and other charitable endeavors throughout the state,” Durham said. “As part of these events, we want to make people more aware of primary progressive aphasia, and the impact that these neurocognitive disorders can have on individuals, families and friends.

“Along with raising awareness, we hope to encourage financial support for continued research and treatment in our state, as well as nationally.”