Two Giants in Georgia Broadcasting Leave Us

When I went to work for WSB in Atlanta in 1957,  Don Heald,  whose professional name was Don Elliot,  was still doing the noon news on WSB-TV.   Since both radio and TV used the same newsroom at the time,  I met Don.  He could  tell I was a little  anxious about how I would do on the great “50,000 -watt Voice of the  South.”  He told me not to worry about it.  “Just do your job and everything will be fine.”  He switched from news to sales shortly after I got there.

I met Marc Bartlett in the White Columns’  fancy break room.  White Columns was the then new building that housed both stations. The building’s facade looked like something out of Gone  With the Wind.   I got to know him a little  because he, who was WSB-TV’s general manager,  and the  radio station manager, Frank Gaither, would come in the break room and have coffee with the troops most mornings.  It was great for  employee relations and the only time most of  us got to converse with them.

Both Don Heald and Marc Bartlett died last Thursday,  Heald, who was 86,  at 4:30 in  the morning,  and Bartlett, who was 98,  at 1:30 in the afternoon.   This is big news in Georgia broadcasting because these two men were Georgia Broadcasting legends –   Heald, because of his decades as vice president and general  manager of WSB-TV,  and Bartlett, because of his incredible  career with Cox Broadcasting, owner of both WSB and  WSB-TV.

Bartlett joined WSB in 1930 as a 19-year-old part time studio pianist.  Over the years became station manager of WSB, and when  WSB-TV went on the air in 1948, he became the TV station’s first  station manager.  After decades he ended up as Vice President  of Cox Broadcasting before retiring.

I got to see both of them at the last WSB Oldtimers reunion, which was about threee years ago.  The choice moment at the reunion was when Bartlett sat down at the piano and started playing.  Here he was, in his 90’s,  doing what he did in 1930 when he started at WSB,  playing the piano.  That was special.


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2 Responses to “Two Giants in Georgia Broadcasting Leave Us”

  1. Tyler J. Beatty Says:

    I noticed that you mentioned Frank Gaither, He was my great grand-father and is one the most interesting people I Knew, please tell me about all the memories you have of him.

  2. dicksworld Says:

    I didn’t have a lot of contact with your great-grandfather, since Elmo Ellis was my direct supervisor, but the contact that I did have with him was friendly. and beneficial. As I said in my memoir The Newsman,” I liked both him and Marc Bartlett, which perhaps helped when I represented WSB Radio in AFTRA contract negotiations.

    He only corrected me one time for something I did on the air. He came into the newsroom one morning – he always listened to the morning news on his drive to the station – and all he said was, “It’s “bologna,” not “baloney.” As I always did when someone questioned my pronunciation of word, I went straigt to Webster, and, as I suspected it would be, he was that time. Today, the word is still spelled balogna, but the first pronunciation listed is “baloney.” Webster says it is also pronounced “bolgna.” Usage changes pronunciation over time, as you know.

    He was probably the main reason I was offered the morning news shift when the announcer who did it before he left the station. Aftra went on strike at NBC and the network canceled it 8 a.m. fifteen minute newscast one morning. I was a morning disc-jockey at the time. I was asked to do the newscast, featuring national and international news, that morning, which I did. Someone relayed to me what your great-grandfther said when he got to the staiton that morning, which was, that I did a good job and, “It sounded like it was the network newscast. They couldn’t have done it any better.” That not only made my day, but probably put me in line for the morning news shift.

    As I also said, I had conversations with him and Marc in the break room when they came in for coffee int he mornings. The only one I actually remember is the morning that a story came down the AP wire about a member of the Cox family – that family owned WSB Radio and TV and the Atlanta Journal Constitution – being arrested in Miami and charged with murdering his wife. I told them about it and said I didn’t run it on the news. “Why not, Dick?” one of them said with a wry smile. “I was too scared to,” I candidly replied. They both laughed.

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