John McNamara, an editor and sports reporter for The Capital Gazette who covered the University of Maryland Terrapins and was a high school basketball history specialist, died June 28 at the attack at the Annapolis newspaper’s office.
The Silver Spring resident was 56.
“Basketball was a love of his and he had a great feel for the game,” said former Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams. “He could have made a lot more money elsewhere, but he had the job he wanted and it was what he wanted to be. I gave him a lot of credit for that.”
Born in Washington and raised in Bethesda, he was the son of Thomas McNamara Sr., a federal Department of Education financial analyst, and his wife, Elizabeth Lynch.
He was a 1979 graduate of St. John’s College High School in Washington and obtained a journalism degree from the University of Maryland College Park, where he had reported sports for campus newspaper, The Diamondback.
“John was one of the most honest and fairest reporters I have ever met,” said Johnny Holliday, sportscaster and longtime radio personality. “I enjoyed being around him.
“He was of the mindset that he was going to pick out the positive aspects of an individual player. He told me he understood the greatest thrill for a 9- or 10-year-old was seeing their name in print.”
Mr. McNamara played softball and basketball informally in school and had delivered newspapers for the old Washington Evening Star. He retained childhood memories of watching the old Washington Senators play at RFK Stadium. He was also a Bullets basketball fan. While at Maryland, he covered high school sports for The Washington Post.
“He had two job offers right out of college,” said his wife, Andrea Chamblee, whom he met while both were Maryland students. “One was for $15,000 a year as an agate-type clerk doing box scores for USA Today. The other was writing sports for $13,000 at the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. He took [the Herald-Mail] because it allowed him to do what he wanted to do — and in that first year  he covered the Orioles, who were in the World Series.
She said they married in 1985 because by then he was making $15,000 — they had agreed to delay their wedding until he had passed that financial milepost.
“He could talk sports to someone who knew plenty and he could talk to someone who knew almost nothing.” his wife said. “And both parties would leave feeling they understood the game better.”
“Coaches were always impressed by his insight and knowledge of the game, but John was a good enough storyteller that he could give a casual fan great insight,” said Doug Dull, a friend and colleague at the Hagerstown paper.
“He’d hang out at the local grocery store when the Street & Smith’s college basketball yearbook came out and he would pull out a highlighter as if he were doing homework. He knew more about Pepperdine and Fresno State than anyone in Maryland.”
In 1987 Mr. McNamara joined The Capital as a copy editor, then worked as sports editor for the old Prince George’s Journal from 1989 to 1994. He then rejoined the Annapolis paper.
“John never changed,” said David Elfin, a freelance journalist and friend who lives in Bethesda. “He always loved sports and he was very passionate about the University of Maryland. I can’t tell you how many games he had covered at Maryland for all the papers where he’d worked.”
He was particularly fond of the university’s Cole Field House.
“No matter if I met him at a Nationals game or at the Capitals or Redskins, Maryland was his comfort level,” Mr. Elfin said. “It was almost as if he were walking into Cheers.”
In 2001 Mr. McNamara and Mr. Elfin wrote “Cole Classics: Maryland Basketball’s Greatest Men and Moments.”
Eric Prisbell, who previously covered college sports for The Washington Post and is now a Dallas sports freelance writer, said: “John’s basketball knowledge was second to none. He had a sharp eye and everyone respected him.
“He was an old-school journalist. He valued the relationships he’d established with coaches. John could be very funny. With just a look he could make a whole table roar with laughter.”
In 2014 his editors at The Capital Gazette changed his assignment and named him editor and reporter of the Bowie Blade-News and Crofton-West County Gazette.
“He took the job change as gracefully as any sportswriter can,” said his wife.
He had been completing research and conducting interviews for a book on the history and roots of high school basketball in the District of Columbia and its suburbs. As part of the project he had visited former NBA and college players who grew up in the area.
A memorial service for Mr. McNamara will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday at the chapel at the University of Maryland, College Park.
In addition to his wife of 33 years, a Food and Drug Administration attorney, survivors include two brothers, Charles McNamara of Bethesda and Danny McNamara of Amsterdam, N.Y.; and three sisters, Jane McNamara of Mercer Island, Wash., Mary McNamara of Washington and Peggy Pyles of Bethesda.