Pastor’s radio show gives newsmakers – politicians to Panthers – a safe place to talk

Posing for the Observer in the the halls of Charlotte’s WBT: (L to R) morning radio hosts Sheri Lynch and Bob Lacey, the Rev. David Chadwick and former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.
Posing for the Observer in the the halls of Charlotte’s WBT: (L to R) morning radio hosts Sheri Lynch and Bob Lacey, the Rev. David Chadwick and former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory. Charlotte Observer

It had been a year since his narrow re-election loss, and former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was ready to open up: about the harassment he says he and his wife have been subjected to in Charlotte, about how Trump voters who backed the Libertarian candidate for governor were partly to blame for his defeat, and about how he wasn’t closing the door on another run in 2020.

Republican McCrory made these headline-grabbing comments this month not at a press conference or in an interview with a reporter, but on a radio show hosted by the pastor of one of Charlotte’s biggest churches.

The Rev. David Chadwick, who leads a congregation of 6,000 at nondenominational Forest Hill Church, has turned his Sunday morning talk show on Charlotte’s WBT (1110 AM) into a popular venue for newsmakers – including politicians, athletes and fellow clergy – to say what’s on their mind.

And for 68-year-old Chadwick, hosting the show gives him a much broader audience than most preachers in town: An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 listeners tune in at 8 a.m. Sunday, and 300 to 400 others download his show as a podcast every week on

“The David Chadwick Show,” the host tells his radio flock, seeks to focus on how faith and values intersect with other issues and subjects.

Such as politics. McCrory, who has looked to Chadwick for spiritual counseling since his years as Charlotte’s mayor in the 1990s, has been a frequent guest during the show’s 17 years on the air.

And then there’s sports.

When Carolina Panthers safety Kurt Coleman recently offered a consoling spiritual message to Julio Jones after the Atlanta Falcons receiver dropped a sure touchdown pass on national TV, “the world kind of went, ‘What?’ ” Chadwick said during an interview with the Observer last week. “Well, I thought: ‘I know where that came from.’ 

Coleman was a guest on Chadwick’s hour-long show earlier this year and had spoken at length about his deep Christian faith.

“Some of the guys (in sports) have a flimsy faith, a superficial faith. But Kurt’s is real,” Chadwick said. “(He’s) not just the guy who scores the touchdown and points to heaven. … He sees the need to give thanks to God in all things. In all things.”

Former North Carolina players Billy Cunningham (left), Phil Ford, and Pastor David Chadwick listen to a speaker while on stage at the Dean E. Smith Center during the public memorial service for Dean Smith entitled “A celebration of the extraordinary life of Dean E. Smith” on Sunday, February 22, 2015. Chadwick gave the prayer at the memorial. David T. Foster, III

Chadwick has a passion for sports: He stands 6-foot-8, was recruited by UNC’s Dean Smith while a high school student in Orlando, Fla., and played as a forward for the Carolina Tar Heels, 1967-71.

After college, he turned pro – in Europe, shooting hoops for three years for squads in Belgium and in Nice on the French Riviera. But eventually, Chadwick felt called to follow in the footsteps of his father, a longtime pastor.

Chadwick considers his radio program an extension of that calling.

He ends each show urging his listeners to “love God and love your neighbor. If you just do those two things, you have a lifetime’s worth of work to do.”

It appears that many who tune in are also there for the religion.

One of his more popular shows this year was about the Museum of the Bible, which opened to the public this month a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Chadwick’s guest on that show: Tony Zeiss, who retired late last year as president of Charlotte’s Central Piedmont Community College to move to Washington and become the Bible museum’s executive director.

But Chadwick, a self-described “Biblical Christian” who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, doesn’t limit his guest list – or his crew – to conservative Protestants.

Charlotte Rabbi Judy Schindler, a social justice liberal, came on the show this year to talk about the Holocaust and the plight of refugees and immigrants.

“I have always appreciated his willingness to engage in dialogue,” Schindler said of Chadwick. “And his willingness to listen and to learn.”

Ed Billick, producer of “The David Chadwick Show” since 2013, is a Catholic who sometimes makes the sign of the cross or spouts a churchy Latin phrase if he likes what Chadwick says on the air.

“We just wear different jerseys,” Billick said of his and the host’s religious differences.

The Rev. David Chadwick has hosted his Sunday morning show on Charlotte’s WBT (1110 AM) for 17 years. He got the gig when the station decided it wanted to do a faith and values-themed show featuring someone from the Charlotte community. Chadwick auditioned on three Saturdays, and got the show. Tim Funk Charlotte Observer

Former governor ‘was hurting’

Chadwick can be equally ecumenical when it comes to political guests. He’s interviewed U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Republican, but also former Charlotte mayor – and later U.S. transportation secretary – Anthony Foxx, a Democrat.

The Charlotte minister has had a long-standing relationship, though, with McCrory, who calls Chadwick a friend and counselor.

It was radio that brought them together.

“I got introduced (to Chadwick) because of his program,” McCrory told the Observer last week. “I was going through a lot of stress at one time (as Charlotte mayor). I think it was during the police shootings (in 1996 and 1997), where we were having some potential riots and I was under a lot of stress.”

McCrory said he heard Chadwick on WBT “and I called him up out of the blue and said, ‘I’d like to come talk with you.’ And we’ve been friends ever since. And he’s been a counselor ever since.”

Chadwick invited McCrory to join a Bible study he was doing with some Charlotte business leaders. The then-mayor remained in the group for eight to 10 years, Chadwick said.

When McCrory lost his first run for governor in 2008, Chadwick said, “I was there next to him and said, ‘Pat, you’ve got to trust and believe.’ 

The Rev. David Chadwick, shown here doing his radio show on Charlotte’s WBT AM-radio says he learned to talk to people while pursuing a communications degree from UNC Chapel Hill. The 6-foo-8 Chadwick also played basketball for Tar Heels coach Dean Smith from 1967-71. Tim Funk Charlotte Observer

And in 2012, when McCrory was elected to North Carolina’s top post, he asked Chadwick to give the prayer at his inauguration in Raleigh.

McCrory lost his 2016 re-election bid to Democrat Roy Cooper a year ago this month. And, Chadwick said, he could tell his friend “was hurting” still.

The former governor talked about why when he went on Chadwick’s show Nov. 5.

He told Chadwick and listeners that his wife, Ann, has “basically moved out of Charlotte” because of harassment the former governor said the couple has received here.

“Here in Charlotte, I’d go to events and people would do the ‘F.U. McCrory’ and ‘you blankety blank blank,’ ” McCory said on the air. “The college campuses were the worst. My wife wouldn’t walk with me. One time we went to Asheville, and she walks on the other side of the street from me, because she didn’t know what would happen.”

McCrory acknowledged that the Interstate 77 toll lanes and his support of the controversial House Bill 2 contributed to his loss. But he also blamed Trump supporters who voted for the Libertarian candidate for governor in what ended up being a close race.

For many North Carolina voters, McCrory became the public face of HB2, a law scorned by many civil rights activists and national commentators. Corporations and national sports leagues such as the NBA and NCAA boycotted North Carolina because of the law.

Still, McCrory, who was considered a moderate as mayor of Charlotte, said on Chadwick’s show that he would not rule out another run for governor in 2020.

“I will think about it after the 2018 elections, and I’ll see if I can afford alimony,” McCrory said, a joking reference to reports that his wife is not thrilled with life in the political limelight.

Chadwick told the Observer that he’s tried to stand by McCrory.

“I know he’s a polarizing figure for some,” he said. “I don’t think people should treat him the way he’s being treated by some. He just tried to serve the state from his own political perspective. Agree or disagree, he’s still a human being and has dignity.”

‘I’ll not ambush you’

Chadwick likes to say that he learned how to talk when he majored in communications as an undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill. And then he learned how to listen when he got his graduate degrees in counseling from the University of Florida.

In posing questions to guests on his show, Chadwick said, “I try to ask them in a way where they’ll answer as honestly as possible.”

Billick, the show’s producer, describes Chadwick’s Q&A strategy this way: “He softens them up in a way that (guests) will want to talk to him. But they know he won’t throw them under the bus.”

When he interviewed Charlotte’s Paula Broadwell for Memorial Day weekend in 2016, that approach meant he didn’t ask her on-air about her relationship with CIA director and retired Army general David Petraeus.

“I promised, ‘I’ll not ambush you. You can talk about whatever you want to talk about,’ ” Chadwick said.

Broadwell, now a writer and an activist for veterans’ causes, did share with Chadwick and his listeners her candid criticisms of the Iraq war and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“I was ostensibly a conscientious objector (on) Iraq,” Broadwell, a veteran who served on active and reserve Army duty for more than 20 years, said on the show. “I didn’t state that publicly, but as a military intelligence officer with a top secret clearance who had studied the Middle East and in fact lived there and spoke the language, I completely disagreed with our reasons and justification for going into Iraq.”

In discussing the 2016 presidential election with Chadwick, Broadwell appeared to agree with military officers in the “leadership class” who she said were concerned about the prospect of Trump as commander-in-chief.

“They do not support Donald Trump,” she said. “He is reckless. He has no concept of foreign policy.”

Chadwick tapes his Sunday show during the week, showing up in the small WBT studio with a bound notebook filled with scribbled thoughts and questions and a coffee mug inscribed with this Hebrew-Southern inscription of peace: “Shalom, y’all!”

Whatever the topic – racial strife, the Panthers home opener or the Charlotte Opportunity Task Force, on which Chadwick served – doing the show leaves him spent.

“When I go home after this,” he said, “I feel like I just preached a couple of sermons.”

But Chadwick isn’t showing any signs he’s ready to give up his prized radio gig – or his job at Forest Hill, a church with six campuses that he took over in 1980, when the congregation totaled just 100-plus people.

“I love what I do,” said Chadwick. “And as my dad used to say, ‘Don’t retire. Re-fire!’ 

David Chadwick

Age: 68

Hometown: Born in Winston-Salem, he grew up in Charlotte, Kansas City and Orlando, Fla.

Family: Wife Marilynn, an author who frequently comes on Chadwick’s radio show to talk about issues related to women, wives and mothers; three grown children (Bethany, David and Michael); and four grandchildren.

Occupation: Pastor of Charlotte’s Forest Hill Church since 1980. He also hosts “The David Chadwick Show” (Sundays, 8-9 a.m.) and does “Moments of Hope,” daily one-minute sermonettes in the 5 a.m. hour, on WBT (1110 AM).

Education: Bachelor’s degree in communications, UNC-Chapel Hill; Master’s and Specialist’s degrees in counseling, University of Florida; Master of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity degrees, Columbia Theological Seminary.

Also of interest:

▪ At Chapel Hill, Chadwick played basketball for the Tar Heels, 1967-71, under coach Dean Smith and was a member of the 1969 NCAA Final Four team.

▪ Chadwick has written six books, including “It’s How You Play the Game: The 12 Leadership Principles of Dean Smith,” with a foreword by Smith’s successor, Roy Williams. Chadwick’s most recent book, published in May, is “From Superficial to Significant.”

▪ Chadwick’s sons have also been athletes. David played basketball on a sports scholarship at Valparaiso University in Indiana. And Michael, the most decorated swimmer in the history of the University of Missouri, won a gold medal at the World Swimming Championships this year in Budapest, Hungary.

▪ Chadwick became a Christian minister like his father, who started in the Moravian Church and later founded Charlotte’s Westminster Presbyterian Church in 1953.

▪ In Charlotte, Chadwick was recently a member of the city’s Opportunity Task Force, a group that focused on poverty and Charlotte’s lack of upward mobility.

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Tim Funk