Jonah J. "Bud" Greenspan was a film director, writer, and producer known for his sports documentaries. His distinctive appearance in later years included wearing his large, dark-framed glasses atop his shaved head.
Greenspan was born in New York City. He overcame a lisp in adolescence and went into sports broadcasting after graduating from New York University. In 1947 Greenspan became sports director at New York City's WMGM (AM), at that time the largest sports radio station in the US, when he was 21 years old. When he left WMGM, Greenspan began contributing articles to magazines while also producing television commercials.
He dabbled in documentary filmmaking in 1952, with The Strongest Man in the World, a 15-minute feature on weightlifter John Davis, but he began his filmmaking career in earnest in 1964, accompanying Jesse Owens to West Berlin to film Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin. In 1967, he formed his own film company, Cappy Productions, Inc., with wife Cappy Petrash Greenspan (deceased 1983). He and his wife had one son. After his wife's death, Greenspan ran Cappy Productions with his companion Nancy Beffa.
Several hour-long productions followed. Greenspan won his first Emmy for 1976's The Olympiad, 22 hour-long documentary specials on the Olympics (including Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin). The series was broadcast in 80 countries. In 1977, he branched into docudrama with the two-hour movie of the week biography of gold-medalist Wilma Rudolph. Wilma, starring Cicely Tyson, featured Denzel Washington in his first movie role. In 1979, he launched the first of several vignette series: This Day in Sports, which aired on CBS, featured 365 30-second film shorts highlighting exciting sports moments from years past. It was followed in 1980 by the similar Olympic Moments, Olympic Events and Olympic Vignettes.
In addition to his prolific film work, Greenspan continued working in other media. He was a contributing editor for PARADE magazine. He also authored a number of books, including several on the Olympics, a book of sports bloopers called Play It Again, Bud, and We Wuz Robbed, which addresses sports controversies. Great Moments in Sports, his first album, went gold and led him to produce 18 more spoken word albums.
Greenspan's work was recognized many times. He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Directors Guild of America in 1995 and from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences at the 2006 Annual Sports Emmy Awards. In 1996, he received a George Foster Peabody Award to recognize "distinguished and meritorious public service", cited as one of the industry's most prestigious awards.
Greenspan received the Olympic Order award in 1985, at which time International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch said, "Mr. Greenspan has been called the foremost producer, writer and director of Olympic films; more than that, he is an everlasting friend of the Olympic family." In 2004, Greenspan was inducted as a "Special Contributor" into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. His visual and musical The Spirit of the Olympics is on display permanently at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1994, Greenspan was inducted in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. In 2006, he was given the Al Schoenfield Media Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Greenspan died of Parkinson's disease on Christmas Day 2010, at the age of 84 in New York City.