Former Clarion Ledger writer and outdoor legend Bobby Cleveland dies

Longtime outdoor journalist and former Clarion Ledger outdoor writer Bobby Cleveland died Thursday from injuries sustained in a car accident.

Cleveland, the brother of former Clarion Ledger sportswriter and Hall of Fame sportswriter Rick Clevelandwho is now with Mississippi Today, recently worked as a spokesperson for the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District.

However, the outdoors was Cleveland’s passion. He shared stories with Mississippi for nearly three decades through the Clarion Ledger and later as a television personality and online columnist.

“Bobby Cleveland was the best outdoor writer of all time, in my opinion,” said Brian Broom, current editor of Clarion Ledger. “He could write a story about nothing and thousands of people would read it and enjoy it, myself included.”

Not only did Cleveland entertain with his outdoor writing, he also informed and educated the public through his writing, Broom said.

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“Our state has suffered a tremendous loss,” Broom said. “While the end of Bobby’s life is a huge loss, what he did in his time should be celebrated. Goodbye my friend. I wish we could take one more trip during the crappie spawn at Gilligan’s Island Fun times, my friend.

Chris Todd, who was photo editor at Clarion Ledger from 1986 to 2010, said Cleveland was a great friend to everyone he knew.

“Bobby was a big man whose heart was even bigger than him,” Todd said. “He would do anything at any time for his family and friends.”

His selflessness, humor and love for everyone has always been shown to his friends and family.

On a fishing trip to the Louisiana swamp, Clarion Ledger Outdoors editor Bobby Cleveland shows off a 37-inch, 23-pound rockfish caught on his first cast on a cool December morning in 2002. (Photo by Tommy Martin/Special for Clarion Ledger, Clarion Ledger File Photo)

Van Arnold worked with Cleveland at Hattiesburg American in the early 1980s. He said the thing that always stood out about Cleveland was that he never seemed to take life too seriously.

“He filled every room he walked into not only with his commanding presence but also with his robust laugh,” Arnold said. “This guy could tell a joke like no one I’ve ever known. There’s a hundred stories I could probably tell about working with Bobby, but this is my favorite memory: pages ago had a 6” hole. We really didn’t have anything that long to fill the space. Bobby was laying out this particular page, and unbeknownst to the rest of the staff, he wrote a brief outline of its flag- the football team called the Sharks. It topped everyone and I never laughed so hard when I saw this story in print. The guy was fearless.

“But underneath all the bluster and antics, there was a talented writer,” Arnold said. “He spent many years working in the shadow of his legendary brother, but make no mistake, Bobby could turn a sentence with the best of them.”

Born and raised in Hattiesburg, Cleveland’s love for the outdoors started early. Through his travels and experiences, he began to educate all of Mississippi.

In a 2012 column, which he posted online, Cleveland explained a bit about his love of the outdoors.

“I own two boats, a bass boat that has the scars of alligator stumps and bites, and a pontoon boat with scars from another form of ‘fauna’.

“I’ve hunted everything legal in the state, killed most of it, and eaten it all, at least once. That includes the crow – both literally and figuratively – the raccoon, the opossum and the opossum on the half shell, aka armadillo,” Cleveland wrote in the column.

In that same column, he wrote about his chance to marry his wife, Pam.

“I met her at a bait shop she once owned, and our first conversation was when she bent over a cricket tub to fill my box,” he wrote. “She came out with crickets crawling all over her, and when she calmly started to get them off her arms, shoulders and even her hair, all I could do was: ‘I bet you too , you would bait your own hook.” She was the catch of my life, and I caught many.

This is a developing story. The Clarion Ledger will continue to be updated throughout the day.