Posts Tagged ‘WRBL-TV’

Business Leader and Philanthropist J. Barnett Woodruff Dies

January 18, 2011

J. Barnett Woodruff at the dedication ceremony of the replica of the Civil War ship the Water Witch at the National Civil War Naval Museum (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

  The last member of the Woodruff family who participated in pioneering broadcasting in Columbus died at the age of 87 last night. Columbus native J. Barnett Woodruff, the son of Jim Woodruff, Senior and brother of the late Jim Woodruff, Jr. and late sister Emily Woodruff, was a part owner of WRBL Radio and TV before it was sold  in 1978.  Their father, Jim Woodruff, Sr., bought WRBL Radio back in the early 1930’s, a few years after it went on the air in a dressing room of the Royal Theater in 1928.  He turned it over to Jim in the late thirties. It grew and grew and ended up a very profitable radio and, eventually, television station. Barnett had a financial interest in the company, but left it up to Jim to run the stations. He had told me he was more interested in the family real estate business.

However, circumstances caused him to become very involved.  Jim died in an automobile accident  in Athens causing his majority ownership of Columbus Broadcasting Company to go into a family trust managed by the First National Bank.  Barnett owned  a minority interest in the company and became president.

The station was sold about two years after Jim Woodruff, Jr. died. Barnett did an extraordinary thing on his last day there.  He personally walked around the building and shook hands, thanked employees for their good work and handed them an envelope containing one-hundred-dollar bills.  I felt so expansive that when I got home that night I handed a couple of them to my teenage son. Teenagers just love cash.

He was a kind, generous man, supporting a number of charities including the Boys and Girls Clubs, Springer Opera House, and the National Civil War Naval Museum. His brother Jim had been instrumental in raising the ironclad Jackson from the Chattahoochee River and starting the naval museum, and his sister Emily was a generous supporter of the Springer.

He was a member of the Rotary Club of Columbus and First Presbyterian Church. He is survived by a daughter, two sons, and 9 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.  A memorial service will be held Friday at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church.

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Walter Cronkite and Me

July 18, 2009

I learned of the death of Walter Cronkite when Phil Scoggins called me to ask if I would give him an interview to run on the 11p.m. news on WRBL.  I immediately said, “Yes.”  I was honored to do the interview.

As I told Phil in the interview, my television news career and Walter Cronkite’s started about the same time. He took Douglas Edwards’ place on CBS-TV and I took Glenn Broughman’s place on WRBL-TV, the station that carried the CBS Evening News. 

At that time,  television news reporting was not entertainment oriented.  Dignity and style prevailed.  News was, and still should be, a serious business.  He built a tremendous amount of trust over the years nationally, and I did my best to do the same thing locally. 

I only saw him in person once.  All of the network big guns converged on the Radio and Television News Director’s Association Convention at Miami in the early 1970’s.   I was WRBL Radio and Television news director, as well as anchor of the evening news, at the time.   The network news anchors came to rally America’s news directors in the fight to show President Nixon and Vice President Agnew that they could not harness and intimidate the media.  Their attacks failed as both of them were forced to resign for other reasons.

I was actually on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite only once. A Fort Benning soldier refused to wear his uniform as a protest against the Vietnam War.  I interviewed him and CBS ran that interview.  The CBS News Southern Bureau chief told me Cronkite said he liked the interview.  Coming from Walter Cronkite, that meant a lot.  

People are saying that he was the “gold standard of broadcast journalism,” and that he was “the most trusted man in America.”  They are also saying that no one today can match the credibility he achieved.  I agree. He was not flashy. He was not Hollywood handsome. He was avuncular, and apparently that’s what America wanted because many millions of them watched him for 19 years on CBS.  When he said, “And that’s the way it is, ” they believed him