Frank Deford, the longtime Sports Illustrated writer noted for his lyrical elegance, has died.

Deford’s wife confirmed that he died Sunday in Key West, Florida. He was 78.

Frank Deford is interviewed at his home in Westport, Conn., in 1984. Associated Press/Bob Child

Deford began writing for Sports Illustrated in 1962. He was the author of more than a dozen books and also made his mark on TV and radio with his booming, gruff voice and unique perspective on the sports world.

Until his recent retirement after 37 years, Deford was a weekly fixture on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” When hed gave his 1,656th and final commentary – what he called “little homilies” – on the show, he thanked NPR for allowing him to choose his topics and allowing him “to treat sports seriously, as another branch on the tree of culture.”

Deford was a six-time Sports Writer of the Year and a member of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.

Deford also had served as a correspondent on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” since 1995.

He was the first sports writer awarded the National Humanities Medal. In 2013, President Barack Obama honored him for “transforming how we think about sports.” Deford called the award the one he is most proud of.