• Bette Elliot

     

     

    • Bette Elliott

      Femme Fare host enjoying a moment at WRAL-TV 10th anniversary open house in 1966.

    • Bette Elliott greets guests

      Femme Fare host greets guests at WRAL-TV 10th anniversary celebration.

    • Bette Elliott

      Femme Fare host in 1960s staff photo

    • Femme Fare models

      Models posing for Femme Fare television show. Host Bette Elliott always featured the latest fashions on her signature program.

    • Fort Bragg reporters on Femme Fare

      Every week reporters from Fort Bragg would appear on Femme Fare to bring viewers military news. L-R: Private Paul Michels and Sergeant Bill Altman in a December 1966 photo.

  • Bob DeBardelaben

    Bob DeBardelaben

    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.

    DeBardelaben was born in Buffalo, NY, but moved to Greensboro, NC at age 11. Following tours in the Merchant Marine and US Navy he enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill. That’s where he discovered a talent for broadcasting and he soon switched his major to communications.

    Following graduation from UNC, DeBardelaben landed a job at WTIK-AM, a Durham radio station owned in part by Floyd Fletcher, son of Capitol Broadcasting founder AJ Fletcher. From Durham, Bob moved on to on-air and management positions at a series of radio stations outside North Carolina.

    In 1959, DeBardelaben was lured to Raleigh to work for an AM station that would soon revolutionize the local radio market. The station was WKIX, which became one of the most popular and successful radio outlets in the South.

    As one of the early “KIX Men,” Bob handled on-air shifts under the name “Bob Kelly.” Listeners grew familiar with the station “jingle” that introduced him: “Time for the Bob Kelly Show, time for the man on the go!” Bob also created a signature sign-off phrase that many remembered years after his KIX days: “This is Mrs. Kelly’s little bald-headed boy, Rapid Robert!”

    As DeBardelaben’s success grew, Capitol Broadcasting management was paying attention, and a job offer was eventually extended. 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, who was focusing on a growing career as a wrestling announcer.

    DeBardelaben and Caudle joined forces in a series of satirical promotions that announced the on-air change. The campaign was dubbed “As the Weather Turns,” and featured appearances by a wide variety of characters, including CBC executive Jim Goodmon and professional wrestler “Black Jack” Mulligan.

    Bob wasted little time making a big name for himself in weather. Although he wasn’t a trained forecaster, he adapted quickly and spent hours learning from the friendly meteorologists at the local weather bureau.

    Despite his growing weather knowledge, Bob admits he never had a great grasp of US geography, so he resorted to his own version of cue cards. Bob couldn’t remember all the state names and locations, but the WRAL weather map was large enough so he could lightly pencil in each state’s initials and readily identify them on air. Bob smoothly and accurately referenced all the states in his weathercasts and loyal viewers never knew the difference!

    In 1984 Bob traveled to New York City for a guest role on the ABC soap opera “Ryan’s Hope.” It was all part of a promotion between ABC and WRAL, and Bob played the role of an underworld “heavy.” He spoke only three lines, but he remembers them to this day: “Well, well, look who’s here;” “Isn’t that John’s girlfriend?” and “That girl better watch it!”

    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.
    In 2006, Bob DeBardelaben returned to the WRAL studios to take part in a reunion newscast to mark the station’s 50th anniversary. He joined newscasters Charlie Gaddy and Bobbie Battista and sportscaster Tom Suiter in a memorable newscast that reminded viewers of one of the most successful on-air teams in history.

    For years after he retired, Bob was still recognized in public, and when complete strangers wandered up to ask “aren’t you Bob DeBardelaben?” he had a ready answer: “Yes, I used to be!”

    Bob DeBardelaben died October 6, 2014 following a brief illness. He was 88.

     

    • WRAL Action News 5 newscast Dec 12 1978

      Action News 5 newscast from December 12, 1978. Charlie Gaddy was the solo news anchor. Bob Debardelaben was the weathercaster, and Rich Brenner was sports anchor. Also seen seated at the anchor desk was reporter Leila Tvedt, who primarily covered high profile court cases. Also seen in the newscast is legendary reporter Fred Taylor and sportscaster Tom Suiter.

      The video shows the end of the lead-in ABC network program “Bewitched” followed by headlines, commercial break, Action News 5 open and then the newscast. Classic commercials have been saved as well.

    • Crazy Things

      1. Name the weatherman or meteorologist who presented a weathercast from WRAL’s tall tower. a) Bob Caudle b) Bob Debardelaben c) Bob Knapp d) Greg Fishel 2. Name the SKY 5 pilot who appeared in a live shot wearing a
    • Bob Debardelaben WRAL Weather Anchor

      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.

    • Action News 5 team

      Adele Arakawa, Charlie Gaddy and Bob DeBardelaben on set during 1980s newscast.

    • Dateline News in progress

      Crew member Jack Stokes, Sam Beard, Bob DeBardelaben and Russell Capps during live Dateline newscast.

  • Charlie Gaddy

    Charlie Gaddy

    Charlie Gaddy is the legendary WRAL-TV newscaster whose reassuring, conversational anchor style led viewers to call him “the Walter Cronkite of North Carolina television.”

    Gaddy spent two decades as the primary anchor of WRAL’s evening newscasts–dominating audience ratings, winning awards, and becoming one of the most successful local news anchors in television history.

    Charles Reece Gaddy was born in the small Sandhills town of Biscoe, North Carolina on September 17, 1931. His father worked for Carolina Power & Light, and when Charlie grew old enough, he worked summers for the power company climbing poles and doing odd-jobs.

    Charlie earned his degree at Guilford College and was almost immediately drafted into the Army. He spent two years in the service and then moved to Washington, DC with the idea of going to law school. After a half semester, he knew the law profession was not for him, so he withdrew from classes and started looking for a job in the nation’s capital.

    It turns out Gaddy had always been a natural on the dance floor, so he signed on as an instructor with Arthur Murray Studios to make ends meet. Charlie taught ballroom classes and excelled on the dance floor, but after fulfilling a one-year contract his interests turned to a craft that had inspired him as a child – broadcasting.

    Charlie says that as a youngster during World War II he sat spellbound on his front porch listening to Edward R. Murrow’s news reports from Europe. He remembers imagining what it would be like to sit in front of a microphone and have people listen to him.

    With that memory fresh in mind, Gaddy began knocking on doors of the major networks in Washington. He went to ABC first and CBS next and was turned down both places. His last chance was NBC, and as luck would have it, he found an entry-level opening for a network page. Charlie took the job and started learning the business from the ground up.

    Charlie worked hard and moved up the ranks. As an assistant director he held cue cards for Nikita Khrushchev when the Russian premier delivered a speech from NBC’s studios. He also interacted with brothers John and Robert Kennedy as JFK prepared to run for president.

    By the time Gaddy left NBC he had worked his way up to staff announcer for the network, a position that answered his boyhood dream and gave him the chance to speak on a microphone and have people listen.

    During his time at NBC, Charlie met a beautiful colleague by the name of Nancy Rankin. The two fell in love and were married September 3, 1960. Almost immediately they moved to Raleigh, where Charlie had just been offered a job at WPTF-AM, the most powerful and prestigious radio station in the state.

    Gaddy spent ten years at WPTF and became extremely popular hosting the “Ask Your Neighbor” show, a folksy call-in program that featured Charlie helping callers solve problems, trade stories and answer life’s questions large and small.

    Across town the managers at WRAL-TV were paying close attention as Gaddy’s popularity rose, and in 1970 they hired him to host a television version of his radio show on Channel 5. It was called “Good Morning, Charlie,” and featured Charlie in a familiar role–taking phone calls, interviewing guests and celebrities, even singing the occasional song as part of the day’s entertainment.

    Once on television Gaddy’s popularity grew even more and once again WRAL management saw an opportunity. In 1974, Charlie Gaddy was named primary news anchor on WRAL-TV, a position that would make him the face of the station for the next twenty years.

    Success came in short order and by the late ‘70s Charlie, Bobbie Battista, Bob DeBardelaben and Rich Brenner formed one of the most heralded anchor teams in local television history. At one point the Gaddy-led newscast commanded 50% of the television audience in the Triangle–one of the highest-rated news programs in the nation.

    Charlie Gaddy was best known as a news anchorman, but over the years he also reported from the field on numerous major stories. He left the studio to cover the deadly Raleigh tornadoes in 1988 along with hurricanes and elections. He traveled to Normandy, Saudi Arabia, China, Honduras, and Plymouth, England for special reports and live coverage of major events.

    Gaddy also had important off-camera responsibilities, serving as Senior Editor of WRAL-TV News for many years. He mentored countless young news people during that time, teaching them how to gather and report news accurately, fairly and in a professional fashion.

    Charlie Gaddy retired from WRAL-TV after twenty years as the station’s lead anchor. His last newscast came on July 1, 1994, and as he signed off for the last time, Charlie quoted lyrics from an old favorite song, saying “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when; but I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.”

    Charlie Gaddy has been honored numerous times. Following his retirement he was named to the prestigious Silver Circle by the MidSouth Chapter of the National Association of Television Arts & Sciences. In 1994 he was inducted into the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. And also in 1994 Pembroke State University presented Gaddy with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

    During his WRAL years Charlie hosted the annual telethon for United Cerebral Palsy and helped raise millions of dollars for the organization. Shortly after his retirement, “The Charlie Gaddy Center for Children” was named in his honor in Raleigh. This child development center serves youngsters through age five, helping them reach their full potential with child care, language development, occupational and physical therapy.

    Charlie Gaddy was inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame in 2012. The award honored his career at WRAL plus his community service, especially his work on behalf of children through groups like UCP and the Children’s Miracle Network.

    Charlie has also served as Vice Chair of the advisory board of the Duke Eye Center. His interest in the Eye Center goes back to childhood when his father was diagnosed with glaucoma.

    Following retirement Charlie authored the biography of Dr. Leroy Walker, legendary track coach and educator at North Carolina Central University. The book is titled “An Olympic Journey: The Saga of an American Hero – LeRoy T. Walker.” It was published in 1998.

    Charlie Gaddy continues to enjoy working in the community, writing and spending time with Nancy.

     

    • 1992 NCAA Basketball Final Four tournament Compilation of WRAL Sports Coverage

      Enjoy watching a compilation of newscasts featuring coverage of the 1992 NCAA Basketball Final Four and championship game. Spoiler alert! Duke University won the championship.

      WRAL sent a news and sports team to cover the excitement of the event. You’ll meet the student who was the Duke Blue Devil in 1992.

    • WRAL 60th Anniversary “The Early Years” by The Tar Heel Traveler

      WRAL celebrated 60 years of broadcasting on December 15, 2016. In recognition of that anniversary, Scott Mason – better known as The Tar Traveler – took viewers on a time travel, via black and white film footage, to witness several news events covered by WRAL during the early years.

      A few of the highlights include President John F. Kennedy’s visit to the campus of UNC to WRAL News Director Bill Armstrong’s interview with NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong while he was training at the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill. Meet Marlene Carole, WRAL’s first female weatherperson who used a chalkboard to write the high and low temperatures – with an eye-wink. Later we see WRAL transition to color and then lead the nation in HD technology.

      Feature edited by WRAL Tar Heel Traveler photographer Bob Meikle.

    • Correct pronunciation of Camp Lejeune

      Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is named in honor of the highly decorated 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, John A. Lejeune. It is a military training facility located in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

      The name, Lejeune, has French origins. In fact, John Lejeune was born at Pointe Coupee, Louisiana. Unfortunately, the name has been mangled through the years by those, including ABC network news anchor (the late) Peter Jennings, who have unknowingly mispronounced it.

      WRAL News anchor Charlie Gaddy decided to seek out one of the relatives of John Lejeune and set the story straight. On December 9, 1983 Charlie Gaddy, news photographer Bruce Wittman, and SKY 5 pilot Mike Allen flew to the campus of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Virginia where Lejeune served his final years of military service. Gaddy found Lejeune’s daughter, Laura, living near the campus.

      Watch this story and find out, once and for all, how to correctly pronounce Camp Lejeune.

    • Goodmon Honored with Award Named for Former WRAL Anchor

      A former WRAL-TV legend wanted an award in his name to honor a man who has helped him support an organization he holds dear.  Charlie Gaddy served as an esteemed anchor at the WRAL-TV newsdesk for several decades and during
    • 1981 Tower Lighting for Christmas and a look back by Charlie Gaddy

      The annual lighting of the tower for Christmas happens on December 1. It is a special time of the year when WRAL spreads Christmas cheer by providing a visual Christmas greeting to the viewers by lighting the tower with more than 3,000 multi-color bulbs. The result is a spectacular Christmas tree. The tradition started in 1959.

      This particular tower lighting on December 1, 1981 was extra special. For the first time, WRAL was able to give viewers a bird’s eye viewer LIVE via SKY 5 – WRAL’s news helicopter – during the ceremony. WRAL News anchor, Charlie Gaddy, shares his memory watching the magnificent images that SKY 5 provided that evening.

      Flying SKY 5 was pilot Randy Watkins.

  • JD Lewis

    JD Lewis

    J.D. Lewis was an on-air personality and corporate executive who broke racial barriers and gained widespread popularity during a long career at Capitol Broadcasting Company.

    Lewis was best known as the genial host of “Teenage Frolics,” a dance and variety program that debuted on WRAL-TV in 1958 and ran for more than two decades. Teenage Frolics is thought to be the country’s first regularly-scheduled program hosted by an African-American; it went on the air thirteen years before the legendary Don Cornelius hosted the first “Soul Train” dance program in Chicago.

    John Davis (J.D.) Lewis, Jr. was born in Indianapolis on July 7, 1919. His family moved to Raleigh in 1923 so his father could take a job as district manager with North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. J.D. grew up on South Bloodworth Street near Shaw University. He starred in football and track before graduating from Washington High School – the first public high school for African-Americans in Raleigh.

    Lewis won a scholarship to Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he earned a business degree and graduated with honors. He lettered in football and track and at one time held the Southern Intercollegiate pole-vaulting record.

    After college, Lewis returned to Raleigh, where he worked briefly for his father and then as a clerk in a neighborhood store. It was there that he met and fell in love with Louise Cox, a high school student who would become his wife.

    When the United States entered World War II, most of Lewis’ college classmates urged him to join the Army’s 99th Pursuit Squad, better known as the “Tuskegee Airmen.” But Lewis was newly-married and wanted to stay near his bride, so he enlisted in the Marine Corps and thus became one of the first 200 blacks to serve in that branch of the military.

    J.D. and his fellow black enlistees did basic training in North Carolina and were known as “Montford Point Marines,” a reference to the swampy area where their barracks were built to segregate them from white Marines at nearby Camp LeJeune. Lewis excelled at Montford Point and was sent to the Pacific Fleet School at Pearl Harbor for training on the military’s new radar technology. His unit was then assigned to the Marshal Islands to track Japanese movement during the rest of the war.

    The radar and electronics experience gained in the Marine Corps laid the groundwork for the next step of J.D.’s career. When he returned to Raleigh in 1947, Lewis set up a radio and television repair business. He also built a mobile sound truck and drove around neighborhoods promoting various events and functions over the loudspeaker. And he handled public address announcements and play-by-play descriptions when teams from the old Negro Baseball League would play in Raleigh.

    J.D.’s reputation grew quickly and in 1948 WRAL-AM/FM General Manager Fred Fletcher heard about him. Fletcher attended a baseball game at Chavis Park and was impressed with Lewis’ announcing talent. He quickly hired J.D. as a morning disc jockey, making him the first African-American radio announcer in North Carolina.

    For the next twenty years Lewis blazed a trail in radio at WRAL-AM and FM, hosting music shows, doing interviews with community leaders and reading news and community announcements. He also got heavily involved in community service – joining and supporting the NAACP, Omega Psi Phi fraternity, The Urban League, The Boy Scouts of America and the First Baptist Church of Raleigh.

    When Capitol Broadcasting Company competed for a television station license in the early 50s, the company proudly pointed to J.D.’s many on-air and civic contributions in its application. CBC won the license and WRAL-TV went on the air in late 1956. Two years later – in 1958 – J.D. Lewis would begin hosting the program that is still synonymous with his name – Teenage Frolics.

    “Frolics” was a wildly popular program that aired live from the WRAL-TV studios every Saturday afternoon. The show featured African-American teenagers dancing to the latest tunes, and while it was best known for music and dance, Teenage Frolics also gave J.D. Lewis a platform for interviews with community leaders, civic officials and nationally-known entertainers such as Lou Rawls and Isaac Hayes.

    Teenage Frolics provided a window into black youth culture and music and gave African-American teenagers a sense of pride. It also made J.D. Lewis a regional star, and his daughter, Yvonne Lewis-Holley, says she felt her father’s influence on a regular basis: “This is what I hear from people when I see them on the street: He was the first black man that they could see on TV that wasn’t pushing a broom.”

    When J.D. Lewis ended his radio career in 1968 he became a community relations representative for Pepsi and a project director for the U.S. Labor Department. He was also responsible for job training programs for the Neighborhood Youth Corps.

    In 1974, CBC President Jim Goodmon convinced J.D. to come back to the company, hiring him as Capitol Broadcasting’s first Human Resources Director. J.D. accepted the challenge and soon went on the air as an editorialist for WRAL-TV, stressing education and other topics that were important to him.

    Later Lewis would serve as CBC’s Minority Affairs Director. During that time he hosted the WRAL-TV public-affairs program “Harambee,” where he used the phrase “Let’s get it together” as a slogan. J.D. also headed up the consumer-advocacy program “Call for Action” that helped numerous citizens with their financial problems.

    Lewis’ deep interest in young people was exemplified throughout his life and career. When he retired from CBC in 1997, he declined a traditional gift and asked that the money instead be directed to his favorite charity, the Garner Road YMCA, a center J.D. helped found after World War II. Capitol Broadcasting Company’s Fletcher Foundation provided $100,000 in seed money for a multi-purpose center that opened in 2005. The new wing at the Y was fittingly named in honor of Lewis.

    J.D. received numerous honors for his participation in a broad range of civic and community activities. In April 2000, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) presented him with its Humanitarian of the Year Award. J.D. was also inducted into the Hall of Distinction at the African-American Cultural Complex. And he received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association.

    In February 2007 Lewis was honored with the very first Triangle Urban League Legend Award for his trailblazing career that changed the landscape of the broadcast industry. The next day — February 17, 2007 – J.D. Lewis died at the age of 87.

    In 2010, J.D. received posthumous induction into the Raleigh Hall of Fame.

     

    • JD Lewis meets with insurance executives

      WRAL host and executive JD Lewis meets with North Carolina Mutual Life leaders.

    • Teenage Frolics weekday edition August 1959

      WRAL dance program Teenage Frolics occasionally aired during the week. Although it was most often associated with J.D. Lewis, the show was hosted by others at times.

    • Memories of Fred Fletcher

      Memories of Fred Fletcher. This video features two programs edited together. The first video is “30 Minutes” hosted by WRAL News anchor Bill Leslie. The second video is “Q&A” hosted by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree.

      Fred, son of AJ Fletcher – founder of Capitol Broadcasting Company, helped launch WRAL-AM in 1939 and soon made a name for himself as the host of a daily talk show called “Tempus Fugit.” Fred would entertain, inform and hold forth with a cast of characters that included his most memorable persona –the lovable “Fairy Tale Man.” During every show Fred would transform into a master storyteller to read the classics from the Brothers Grimm. He was the proverbial one-man-band who created his own sound effects and made up the voices of all the characters. Listeners young and old loved it, and before long “Tempus Fugit” was the top-ranked show in its time period.

    • JD Lewis

      Lewis in his early days operating a camera for a WRAL-TV production.

    • JD Lewis presenting award

      Capitol Broadcasting executive and on-air host JD Lewis congratulating Ligon High School principal Henry Brown at event.

  • Jesse Helms

    Jesse Helms

    Jesse Helms was a newspaperman-turned-broadcaster whose fiery editorials on WRAL-TV helped propel him to a 30-year career in the United States Senate.

    Born in Monroe, NC in 1921, Helms’ first job was sweeping the floor of the Monroe Enquirer at age nine. He wrote a column for the same newspaper in high school and by 1939 was writing freelance sports articles for other papers in the region.

    Helms studied journalism at Wingate Junior College and later at Wake Forest College, where he also wrote sports publicity material for the school. A chance meeting with the managing editor of the Raleigh News & Observer led to a job as overnight proofreader for the paper. When the N&O promoted him to sportswriter, Helms dropped out of Wake Forest to devote all his time and energy to his newspaper career.

    Helms’ first fulltime job was as a sports reporter with Raleigh’s afternoon paper, the Raleigh Times. He rose to the position of Assistant City Editor before joining the Navy in 1942.

    Before leaving for naval duty, Helms married Dorothy “Dot” Coble, who was also working in the newspaper business. Coble was editor of the society page at the News & Observer. The marriage would last until Helms’ death 66 years later.

    Helms served stateside as a naval recruiter from 1942-1945. When he returned to Raleigh, he was offered a job as News Director of WCBT Radio in Roanoke Rapids. While working there, he met Capitol Broadcasting Company founder A.J. Fletcher, and the two struck up a friendship that would last a lifetime.

    A.J. Fletcher liked the young newsman and saw to it that he would eventually join his company. 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.

    When Jesse Helms came back to Raleigh, he took the job of Executive Director of the North Carolina Bankers Association. He held that title for the next seven years, but also found time to win election to the Raleigh City Council (1957-1961) and keep a hand in broadcasting– hosting a short Sunday program called “Facts of the Matter.”

    But by 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.

    From the beginning, Jesse Helms’ Viewpoint editorials were designed to stir passionate debate. A WRAL-TV promotional flier described Viewpoint as “…easily the most provocative five minutes on television anywhere in the South. By taking a stand ourselves, Channel Five hopes that it may spark a willingness in others also to take a stand, either with us or against us, pro or con. Viewpoint is designed to make people think, and to register with Channel Five’s viewers this station’s position on matters of urgent public concern.”

    Helms argued for free enterprise and states’ rights and against a host of issues that were familiar targets for conservatives, including abortion, civil rights and Medicaid. Helms spiced his commentaries with folksy anecdotes and biting sarcasm that won him legions of fans, but also made enemies.

    The Viewpoint editorials made the controversial commentator a household name in North Carolina and after twelve years on the air—Helms decided to use his popularity among conservative voters as a springboard to Washington.

    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.

    Helms’ political career is well-chronicled, but it’s generally agreed that he became one of the country’s most powerful and controversial conservatives during his three decades in office. His political stands were much like his Viewpoint editorials; there was no middle ground. The Almanac of American Politics once wrote that “no American politician is more controversial; beloved in some quarters and hated in others, than Jesse Helms.”

    As his health began to fail, however, Helms decided to leave politics and say goodbye to the national stage. In August 2001, Senator Jesse Helms returned to the once-familiar studios of WRAL-TV to videotape one final message—a statement officially announcing that he would not run for reelection.

    Jesse Helms died July 4, 2008. He was 86.

     

    • Jesse Helms: The Decision

      In 2002, Jesse Helms announced his decision not to seek reelection as United States Senator for North Carolina. He made his announcement from the studios of WRAL-TV, where he gained recognition with his editorials titled, “ViewPoint.”

      Helms was the longest-serving popularly elected Senator in North Carolina’s history. He served from January 3, 1973 to January 3, 2003.

      WRAL News anchor David Crabtree interviewed Senator Helms after his announcement. They covered a variety of subjects ranging from politics, his reputation as “Senator No,” his relationship with the media, and the tradition of senators carving their initials inside their desk.

      Jesse Alexander Helms, Jr. was born October 18, 1921 and died July 4, 2008.

    • Jesse Helms former Executive VP of Capitol Broadcasting Company

      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.

    • Senator Jesse Helms and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Helms Center 2001

      The friendship between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and NC Senator Jesse Helms was special. Both fought for conservative principles in their countries. Helms stood by Thatcher and President Reagan as they fought to bring down the Iron Curtain. In April, 2001 Lady Margaret Thatcher served as the guest speaker at the grand opening the A.J. Fletcher Building, a 23,000 square-foot interactive museum that now serves as the headquarters for the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate, North Carolina. In his 2005 memoir “Here’s Where I Stand” Helms wrote, “From the beginning I knew she would be a leader like few the world has seen.”

      The video features a meet and greet time with Thatcher and a Question and Answer session that took place April 27, 2001 at Quail Hollow Country Club, Charlotte, N.C. On April 28, 2001 Helms and Thatcher cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Jesse Helms Center, followed by a speech by Prime Minister Thatcher.

      The Right Honorable Margaret Thatcher ends her speech by quoting poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
      “Sail on, O Ship of State!
      Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
      Humanity with all its fears,
      With all the hopes of future years,
      is hanging breathless on thy fate!”
      May God always bless America!

    • Helms and Suiter

      WRAL sports anchor Tom Suiter shows Senator Jesse Helms letter of recommendation that Helms wrote for Suiter. The letter helped Suiter land his first job at WRAL.

    • US Senate Race Jesse Helms vs John Ingram

      WRAL-TV News Reporter Leila Tvedt covered the campaign of Republican Jesse Helms, while reporter Don Kobos covered Democrat John Ingram during the 1978 election.

  • Paul Montgomery

    Paul Montgomery

    He may have been legally blind, but Paul Montgomery saw what it took to make people happy. With a gap-tooth grin and tattered top-hat, “Uncle Paul” endeared himself to children and adults alike as host of the legendary “Time for Uncle Paul” show on WRAL-TV.

    Every weekday from 1961-1981, Uncle Paul entered Triangle living rooms with “Crawford the Lion” and a host of puppet sidekicks. He worked without a script, without a budget and without rehearsal, but Paul Montgomery knew the simple truth that laughter and a big grin is all we really need.

    Kids felt famous and special getting to march around the studio behind Uncle Paul, and the daily routine became a staple of his program. He saw entertainment as the number one goal and did all he could to help kids have fun. Using a variety of puppets such as “Stripes the Skunk” and a “hepcat” named “Zoot,” Uncle Paul delighted studio audiences filled with wide-eyed children.

    Paul Montgomery’s career began on radio; in the early ‘40s he joined WRAL-AM as an announcer and record librarian and made a name as a sharp-witted, humorous performer. He later moved across town to WNAO-AM, where he hosted a morning program. In 1956, Montgomery made the transition to television when he joined the staff at Raleigh’s WNAO-TV.

    In 1958 he joined WRAL-TV, where he appeared as “Heinrich von Stuplebaum” on the “Cap’n Five” show. Wearing a straw hat and his trademark grin, Montgomery provided music and comic relief on the children’s program hosted by Herb Marks.

    During this era Montgomery also played organ and piano for WRAL’s version of “Romper Room” and in 1960 became “Bozo the Clown” on WRAL’s local version of the popular cartoon show.

    Then in 1961, Montgomery traded in his red nose and clown makeup for a tattered coat and top hat to become “Uncle Paul,” the studio ringmaster of what would become one of the longest running children’s shows in the Southeast.

    Montgomery’s talents stretched far beyond broadcasting. Despite being legally blind his entire life, he became a highly-acclaimed jazz musician and composer.

    Montgomery regularly performed with some of the biggest names in jazz as well as local artists. His collaborations with jazz vocalist Carol Sloane were legendary and included the album “Subway Tokens,” which was recorded live at Raleigh’s renowned Frog & Nightgown nightclub.

    Montgomery was best known as a jazz pianist, but he also played the violin and served as organist at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Raleigh.

    Paul Montgomery’s kindness and sense of humor endeared him to scores of North Carolineans, from tykes to the young at heart. As one fan and friend noted, “He made everyone feel good inside.”

    Uncle Paul Montgomery died December 24, 2002. He was 78.

     

    • History of the Golden Years Celebration

      Every December, Capitol Broadcasting Company sponsors the Golden Years Holiday Celebration luncheon for the members of the Golden Years Association of the Raleigh (NC) Parks and Recreation Department. Held at the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center in the city’s downtown, the celebration attracts over 1,000 senior citizens each year.

      The celebration started in 1958 under the leadership of CBC Corporate Secretary Scottie Stephenson. She continued to be the driving force behind the event every year until her death in 2002. She saw the event grow in attendance from 50 to 1,500 in her over four decades as coordinator. Fred Fletcher, the first General Manager at WRAL-TV, had an active role in the celebration as well, especially reprising the song “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”

      The event includes a variety of musical entertainment and ends with the attendees pushing back their chairs and taking a turn on the dance floor. WRAL-TV news anchors host the program which began as a luncheon and converted to become a breakfast and morning event in 2005.

      A portion of the annual event is televised on WRAL-TV on Christmas Day.

      The Golden Years Association of the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department sponsors 48 Gold Years Clubs for senior adults aged 55 and older throughout the city. Clubs meet throughout the year and enjoy activities such as hiking, bowling, workshops, trips and a myriad of other activities and special events.

    • Sally Blackwell from Uncle Paul Show

      Blackwell assisted Paul Montgomery with childrens program. This photo from February 1966.

    • Paul Montgomery at jazz festival

      WRAL legend Uncle Paul Montgomery leads his jazz quartet at festival in July 1959

    • Fred Fletcher sings My Two Front Teeth

      Fred Fletcher, son of A.J. Fletcher – founder of Capitol Broadcasting Company, served as WRAL-TV’s first general manager. Fred was known as an entertainer and savvy broadcaster. After his retirement, Fred still loved to entertain an audience. Here Fred and jazz pianist Paul Montgomery, also known to viewers as “Uncle Paul,” perform the Christmas classic “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” The venue is the annual Golden Years gathering, sometimes known as Golden Agers, that was held in downtown Raleigh.

    • Tis the Season for Parades

      Dating as far back as 1959, WRAL has been a part of the Raleigh Christmas Parade. Check out this picture (left) of the WRAL float as it eases down the parade route. Seated up front is Paul Montgomery, better known
  • Ray Wilkinson

    Ray Wilkinson

    Ray Wilkinson was a pioneering farm broadcaster who almost single-handedly changed the way agricultural news was reported in the Southeast. Ray spent more than three decades at Capitol Broadcasting Company, winning countless friends and earning a spot in the National Farm Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

    Born in Chicago, Ray Wilkinson moved to Eastern North Carolina in 1948 to take a job as Program Director for WFMA/WCEC Radio in Rocky Mount. He started producing regular agricultural reports and feature stories that were picked up by the fledgling Tobacco Radio Network, a division of Capitol Broadcasting Company. Wilkinson’s reports became so popular that CBC eventually hired him as its Farm News Director in 1963.

    At CBC, Wilkinson was responsible for covering all things agricultural on radio and television. He anchored daily farm news reports on WRAL-TV and became a fixture on the station’s morning and midday newscasts.

    But it was Wilkinson’s in-depth coverage of agricultural markets that truly set him apart from other farm broadcasters. Wilkinson reported on commodity prices not only in North Carolina — but throughout the Southeast. Colleagues described him as a walking encyclopedia of farm facts, lore and knowledge. Farmers recognized him as “Uncle Ray”– their voice, their friend and champion.

    Ray was a savvy businessman; as General Manager of the Tobacco Radio Network, Wilkinson was instrumental in developing a multi-state, commodity-oriented radio network. He’s credited with expanding TRN from a handful of radio stations in Eastern North Carolina into a regional chain stretching from Virginia to Florida.

    Wilkinson didn’t stop there, either–he took CBC’s farm reporting global. Wilkinson organized and produced the first World Tobacco Teleconference in 1991. He also produced market development reports from Europe, Asia, Africa, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East.

    For many North Carolinians, it was the “other” Ray Wilkinson that they remember, the one who made them laugh. Early in his career, Ray began telling jokes about two fictitious country bumpkins, “Cecil and Leonard,” and the tales endeared him to fans far and wide, young and old. Ray was invited to speak at conventions throughout the country, and before long, his hayseed duo was almost as famous as the farm reporter himself.

    When Ray Wilkinson retired as a CBC Vice President in 1995, he passed the broadcasting torch to his son, Dan, who at the time was a rising WRAL farm reporter. Eight years later, Dan died suddenly at the age of 45, and the death took a toll on his father’s boundless optimism. But as Ray would say later, life is about change, and that means accepting the bad with the good.

    And as for the change he saw through the years in broadcasting — Ray summed it up as only a farm reporter would: “You just learn to make the transition — just like mules to horses and horses to tractors.”

    Ray Wilkinson blazed a trail for other farm broadcasters and his influence was felt far beyond the borders of North Carolina. Fittingly he was inducted into the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1996. In bestowing the honor, the association recognized Ray for more than 45 years of service to farmers, farm families and the entire agribusiness community.

    Ray was the recipient of numerous other major awards, including the “Oscar in Agriculture” in 1965; “Farm Broadcaster of the Year” by the National Association of Farm Broadcasters in 1975, “Agricultural Communicator of the Year” by the National AgriMarketing Association in 1991, “NCDA Friend of Agriculture Award” in 1990, and the “Governor’s Award for Service to Agriculture” in 1990.

    In 1990 Wilkinson became the first fulltime farm broadcaster inducted into the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. The NCAB honored Ray for his significant contributions to broadcasting in North Carolina.

    Wilkinson loved history and was well-known for his dedication to the revitalization of historic Halifax, NC. In honor of those efforts he received the prestigious “Old North State Award” at the State Capitol in 2004.

    Ray Wilkinson died on December 4, 2004 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 79.

     

    • History of the Golden Years Celebration

      Every December, Capitol Broadcasting Company sponsors the Golden Years Holiday Celebration luncheon for the members of the Golden Years Association of the Raleigh (NC) Parks and Recreation Department. Held at the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center in the city’s downtown, the celebration attracts over 1,000 senior citizens each year.

      The celebration started in 1958 under the leadership of CBC Corporate Secretary Scottie Stephenson. She continued to be the driving force behind the event every year until her death in 2002. She saw the event grow in attendance from 50 to 1,500 in her over four decades as coordinator. Fred Fletcher, the first General Manager at WRAL-TV, had an active role in the celebration as well, especially reprising the song “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”

      The event includes a variety of musical entertainment and ends with the attendees pushing back their chairs and taking a turn on the dance floor. WRAL-TV news anchors host the program which began as a luncheon and converted to become a breakfast and morning event in 2005.

      A portion of the annual event is televised on WRAL-TV on Christmas Day.

      The Golden Years Association of the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department sponsors 48 Gold Years Clubs for senior adults aged 55 and older throughout the city. Clubs meet throughout the year and enjoy activities such as hiking, bowling, workshops, trips and a myriad of other activities and special events.

    • Ray Wilkinson spits with the best of them

      WRAL legend spits watermelon seed while NC Ag Commissioner Jim Graham cheers him on.

    • That’s “Bubba” in the Middle. WRAL News Anchor John Hudson

      From left to right we see Ray Wilkinson, CBC VP and President of Ag News, WRAL News anchor/reporter John Hudson and WRAL reporter Fred Taylor. The picture was taken in Studio A on September 28, 1989. The occasion was a
    • Sets Were Simple in ‘63

      Take a look at this picture of Ray Wilkinson, WRAL Farm Director, seated at the Farm News set in 1963. Nothing fancy schmancy here! Ray Wilkinson joined the WRAL-TV staff as farm news director November 29, 1963. Of course he
    • Memories of Fred Fletcher

      Memories of Fred Fletcher. This video features two programs edited together. The first video is “30 Minutes” hosted by WRAL News anchor Bill Leslie. The second video is “Q&A” hosted by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree.

      Fred, son of AJ Fletcher – founder of Capitol Broadcasting Company, helped launch WRAL-AM in 1939 and soon made a name for himself as the host of a daily talk show called “Tempus Fugit.” Fred would entertain, inform and hold forth with a cast of characters that included his most memorable persona –the lovable “Fairy Tale Man.” During every show Fred would transform into a master storyteller to read the classics from the Brothers Grimm. He was the proverbial one-man-band who created his own sound effects and made up the voices of all the characters. Listeners young and old loved it, and before long “Tempus Fugit” was the top-ranked show in its time period.