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.