More Oral History Interviews
Phyllis Parish Howard, Director of Local Production, joined WRAL in 1982. Her desire to work in television started at an early age. It all started with a letter written to Carol Burnett, star of the immensely popular CBS variety program “The Carol Burnett Show.” Burnett wrote back to Phyllis – then ten years old, encouraging her to follow her dream. Phyllis took her advice.
At WRAL, she began as Promotion Coordinator, promoted to Promotion Producer, then Special Projects Producer. Now she is Director of Local Production managing commercial production and local programming.
She has been involved in a wide range of projects including WRAL’s “Save Our Sounds” campaign. Phyllis also wrote and co-produced “Troubled Rivers” a documentary that investigated toxic pollution in the Neuse River. Other community outreach projects include “For the Children” campaign resulting in the EMMY award winning special “NC’s Epidemic of Overweight Children”. The list of productions continues with “A Vision, A Voice…40 Years of Service” honoring WRAL’s 40th anniversary, “The Annual Raleigh Christmas Parade,” “NC Symphony Pops in the Park,” “Crisis in Kosovo,” “Coats for Kids,” “Smart Start for Kids,” just to name a few. Many of these projects can be viewed on this website.
One of the hallmarks of Capitol Broadcasting is its desire to serve the community. Phyllis and her team work at the core of those projects.
Barbara Ann “Bobbie” Battista was a producer, on-air host and primary evening news anchor at WRAL-TV from 1974 to 1981.
Battista joined WRAL-TV in 1974 as a secretary, but she quickly convinced station management to put her on the air in 1976. She produced and anchored the WRAL morning news and other special programming until 1977, when she joined Charlie Gaddy on the station’s 6:00 and 11:00 o’clock news. Gaddy and Battista formed the first male-female anchor team in the Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville television market.
Over the next four years WRAL achieved ratings dominance and in late 1981 Bobbie answered Ted Turner’s call to join a start-up cable network known as CNN. She was hired as one of the original anchors on CNN Headline News, but by 1986 Battista moved to CNN’s flagship cable channel where she became one of the network’s most recognizable stars.
During this time at CNN Battista also anchored a daily program for CNN International, making her the only anchor in CNN history to work at all three CNN networks. In 1998 Battista was chosen to host television’s first daily interactive talk show – Talkback Live.
Bobbie was interviewed by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree in 2006 for the 50th Anniversary of WRAL-TV. The video is “raw footage” from one camera angle and had not been edited showing the other camera angles. That is why you will see quick camera adjustments.
Known as “The Biggest Name in Weather,” Bob DeBardelaben was one of WRAL-TV’s best known on-air personalities, gaining fame as the primary weather anchor of the station’s dominant “Action News 5” broadcasts.
Bob joined CBC in 1966 as a sales rep for Tobacco Radio Network. He began voicing commercials and handling a variety of on-air and off-air jobs, and by the late 60s he was doing the morning show on WRAL-FM.
It wasn’t long before DeBardelaben’s talents would move to the world of television, where he gained instant popularity as the host of “Dialing for Dollars,” a daily quiz program on WRAL-TV. Bob would spin a big wheel, make random phone calls and challenge viewers to win money if they could recite “the count and the amount” of the contest totals at that particular moment.
Bob’s popularity continued to grow, and in 1976 his career was forever changed when he was named the primary weathercaster of WRAL-TV’s weekday newscasts. DeBardelaben replaced long-time weatherman Bob Caudle.
Bob was always up for a weather stunt, as well. In the mid-80s he broadcast the weather one evening from a platform near the top of WRAL’s 2,000-foot tower. All went well, but when he came back down after the newscast he kissed the ground and said “never again!”
DeBardelaben retired in 1989 at age 62. Always an avid golfer, he says he wanted to spend more time on the links.
Bob DeBardelaben died October 6, 2014 following a brief illness. He was 88.
In 1948, WRAL Radio President Fred Fletcher hired Helms as the News Director for WRAL-AM, WRAL-FM and the company’s two growing networks—the Tobacco Radio Network and the Tobacco Sports Network.
During the next few years Helms ran CBC’s radio news department and developed an intense interest in politics. He began spending spare time working on the 1950 U.S. Senate campaign of Willis Smith, who beat Frank Porter Graham in a hotly-contested election.
After the successful campaign, Senator Smith hired Helms away from WRAL and brought him to Washington as his Administrative Assistant. Helms served capably in that capacity until Smith died suddenly in 1953. He then worked briefly for Alton Lennon—Smith’s successor, but returned to Raleigh before the year ended.
In 1960, the time was right for a reunion between Jesse Helms and his old friend, A.J. Fletcher. In a move that would change his life and career, Helms joined Capitol Broadcasting Company as its Executive Vice President, Vice Chairman of the Board, and Assistant Executive Officer.
In his new role at CBC, Jesse Helms’ chief responsibility was to write and express the views and positions of the company on a variety of topics. He communicated those positions in daily editorials on WRAL-TV and Capitol Broadcasting’s radio outlets. The commentaries were called “Viewpoint,” and the segment title became synonymous with Jesse Helms.
In early 1972, Jesse Helms filed as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, and the Viewpoint editorials that had made him famous came to an end. Helms left Capitol Broadcasting Company and that fall won the bellwether election that would send him to Washington for the next thirty years.
Jesse Helms died July 4, 2008. He was 86.
This interview was conducted by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree in 2006 for a special presentation of the 50th anniversary of the station.
Tom Suiter, a native of Rocky Mount, joined WRAL-TV as a sportscaster in 1971. He had just graduated from Erskine College located in Due West, South Carolina. The rest, as they say, is history!
Suiter was hired by his hero of sportscasters, Ray Reeve. Under Reeve, and then later Nick Pond, he honed his sports delivery and developed a unique style which included the addition of new words like, “Jamburger” and “Crunchburger.”
The first interview Tom Suiter ever did as a paid sports journalist was with legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden. The last interview he conducted as WRAL –TV sports anchor was with Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, in 2008.
Suiter is best known for “Football Friday,” a segment of the sportscast that featured video highlights of the games and final scores. The segment grew from coverage of eight games to 50+ games, and from a segment in the sportscast to a thirty minute program that aired after the late newscast.
“The Extra Effort Award” is another segment developed by Suiter to recognize high school student -athletes. Throughout the school year, he would honor one person – nominated by schools – each week who excels not only on the playing field but also in the classroom and in the community.
Suiter was elected to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2011. He has also been named the winner of the annual Media Representative of the Year by the NCHSAA and was honored by the Nashville/Midsouth Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with a place in the Silver Circle. He has been nominated for 17 regional Emmy’s, winning two, and was named the NC Sportscaster of the year in 1990 by the National Sportscasters & Sportswriters Association.
This interview was produced in 2006 for the 50th Anniversary of WRAL. David Crabtree, WRAL news anchor, is the interviewer. Note that the video is in raw form, meaning that it had not been edited for final production. You will see camera adjustments that would have been covered with other camera angles.