They received two coveted awards at the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame Induction Awards Ceremony Saturday night in Marietta, Georgia.
Jim Woodruff, Jr., President and General Manager of WRBL Radio and TV, was my friend and boss for more than 20 years. He was honored posthumously with the Elmo Ellis Spirit Award. I worked for Elmo Ellis at WSB Radio for four years. Both of the men were Georgia broadcasting giants. I learned a lot from both of them.
James “Alley Pat” Patrick received the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame Founders and Directors Award. He, at age 94, was there to personally accept the award. He brought the house down with his outrageously insulting humor. I could not believe that someone 94 years old could have the energy to be as funny as he was. As the video about his life told us, he started his radio career in the ’40s on Atlanta’s first black-owned radio station WERD-AM. He left radio for a while to become Atlanta’s first black bail-bondsman, actively working with civil rights leaders to bail protestors out of jail during civil rights struggles. A theatrical documenarty film has been made about him. It calls him the “Real Mouth of the South.”
No doubt that is a take-off on the old WSB “50,000-watt Voice of the South” slogan. I have to admit the first time I announced that station break on the 50,000-watt Voice of the South in 1957 I felt very special, because that station was and is a broadcasting giant. More so then, I think, than it is now. I once asked Elmo Ellis about the ratings. Knowing I was doing the morning news, he said the station had more viewers in the morning than all other Atlanta stations combined. I don’t think anyone in Atlanta can claim that now.
Janet Beerman, Ellis’ daughter, who made the Elmo Ellis Spirit Award presentation, introduced the short video about Jim Woodruff, Jr.’s life. It was my honor to narrate that video, especially when I saw that the Woodruff family – some 20 of his progeny were there – was pleased that I did it. The video only ran for two minutes so a lot had to be left out. For instance, I wasn’t able to tell that Woodruff was instrumental in launching the University of Georgia Football Radio Network, with WRBL Radio feeding play-by-ply of Georgia games to stations all over Georgia for a number of years. Also, I had to leave out that he was instrumental in putting Georgia’s first commercial FM station , WRBL-FM, on the air right after World War II. At one time Woodruff was involved administratively in four family owned stations in Georgia, including WATL in Atlanta, and WGPC in Albany.
What a great night it was, filled with historic images of Georgia’s many radio stations, and with laughs aplenty supplied by still-living radio personalities. Thanks so much to Debbie and Jim Woodruff, III, for inviting former WRBL co-workers Don Nahley, Al Fleming, and me to the event. All of us had a marvelous time.