After raising questions by announcing an inaugural class that contained only whites, the Charlotte Broadcasting Hall of Fame made room for one more person last week by adding “Chatty Hattie” Leeper, who became the first African-American woman on Charlotte radio in the ’50s.
She was a high-school kid doing odd jobs at WGIV-AM when she got a shot at the microphone and went on to become one of the city’s best-known broadcasters.
Other members of the first hall of fame class, to be honored Aug. 21 at a luncheon at the Charlotte City Club, are WCNC forecaster Larry Sprinkle, evangelist Billy Graham, 30-year WBT-AM (1110) morning personality Grady Cole; WBT and WBTV (Channel 3) pioneer Charles Crutchfield; WBTV homemaking show host Betty Feezor; WBT and WSOC-AM founder Earle Gluck; Big WAYS and WROQ-FM founders Stan and Sis Kaplan; CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt, who interned at WBT and later worked at The Charlotte News; and longtime Charlotte news anchors Doug Mayes and Bill Walker.
Naming those who got left off the list is half the fun with any hall of fame, and I’ve heard from readers about their nominees: Jim Patterson, who signed WBTV on the air; Channel 3 cowboy Fred Kirby; WCCB (Channel 18) founder Cy Bahakel; Robert D. Raiford, the longest-running radio voice in town; Charlotte native Beatrice Thompson, who grew up to go on TV and is still the city’s most provocative radio host; and a dozen more.
We interrupt this stroll down memory lane for a possibly true story about Grady Cole, who once came to interview President Truman when he came through town on a whistle-stop tour. A farmer standing nearby turned to a friend and asked: “Who’s that feller over there beside Grady Cole?”
At WGIV, Leeper was part of the crowd that attracted teenagers both white and black because the station played R&B and rock’n’roll, considered seditious music by many grown-ups.
“Genial Gene” Potts, who died in 1988, was another WGIV star.
Once a man sought for killing a police officer strolled into WGIV and offered a deal to Potts: Play a song for my mama and I’ll give up. Potts played it, then called the cops; the man went peacefully.
“Rockin’ Ray” Gooding was another WGIV favorite, and one of the nicest guys in town. Once a man burst into the station in a bathrobe and announced he was Jesus.
Police were on the way when Gooding walked in.
“When you’re not in heaven, where do you live?” Gooding asked the man, who gave an address on the west side.
Let’s get you there before the cops show up, Gooding replied. And gave him a lift home.
Crump documentary airs Monday on Selma
WBTV reporter and documentary producer Steve Crump presents “Selma’s Golden Anniversary,” about the 50th anniversary of the march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, at 7:30 p.m. Monday on Bounce, carried on digital channel 3.2.
Among those interviewed are the Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP, former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.