Dolly Parton's decades-old letter to 'Voice of the Vols' John Ward released

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- A heartfelt letter from county music superstar, Dolly Parton, to legendary Voice of the Vols, John Ward, was released Friday evening.

The Vol Network tweeted the letter.

The now-public piece of East Tennessee history showed Parton wishing Ward a happy retirement. The decades-old letter is dated Nov. 3, 1998.

Dolly wrote, in part, "I hear that you're retiring after 31 years as the Voice of the Vols for the University of Tennessee. It seems like only yesterday that you were trying to tell me what to do in Knoxville, when I was singing on the Old Man Schultz Hour." Dolly continued, "I know my road manager, Don Warden, always listens to you while we're traveling around the county in my bus. It's like you're the voice of the family."

The letter was released more than a week after Ward died of a lengthy illness. He was 88.

A tribute honoring the sportscaster's achievements took place Wednesday evening at UT. It was a way for Tennessee fans and loved ones to celebrate Ward's impact on the Big Orange country.

Ward was named Tennessee Sportscaster of the Year 28 times. His career, which spanned more than three decades, began in 1958 when, while still a University of Tennessee student, he broadcast his first UT basketball game. In 1976, Ward was named Best College Announcer in the country. Ward retired after the 1998 season alongside former Vol Bill Anderson. His last game was UT's Fiesta Bowl win that garnered UT a National Championship.

Ward's wife, Barbara, passed away in 2017. According to the university, he and his wife made a $2 million gift to football and basketball scholarships in 1994. At the time, it was the single largest gift to the athletic department in history.