May 25, 2014
At the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, a familiar voice performed “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” one last time.
Jim Nabors once was seen on television screens across the nation as Gomer Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show” and its spinoff, "Gomer Pyle USMC." Nowadays, his character evokes a sense of nostalgia for those who grew up watching the shows in the 1960s and 70s. Even for those not old enough to remember those days, the sound of his voice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway can be recognized by fans of all ages.
The tradition of Nabors singing before the race began in 1972.
“I had no idea that it’d be all of these years later and I’d still be doing this,” said Nabors, 83. “I feel very grateful. I’ve been totally blessed in my life with getting to do things like this and getting to know all of the people I’ve known and become friends with.”
Between 1987 and 2006, Nabors hadn’t missed a race. The streak was broken in 2007 because of illness that prevented him from traveling from his home in Hawaii. For many, it was strange not hearing that baritone voice echo throughout the Speedway. However, after this year, they’ll have to move forward just as Nabors is.
“There’s a time in life when you have to move on. I’ll be 84 this year and I just figured it was time. It’s kind of hard to travel and there’s just a bunch of reasons,” Nabors said. “This really is the highlight of my year. It’s very sad for me, but there’s something inside me that tells me when to go.”
Though he’s an Alabama native, Indiana is a part of him.
“Right after singing ‘(Back Home Again in) Indiana’ for the first time, I became a total Hoosier – I really did,” he said. “It’s been a great run for me.”