Doug Mayes, who launched the first generation of local TV news in the Carolinas and set a standard of journalistic authority as the new medium evolved and expanded in the 1950s, was eulogized Wednesday as a humble professional at ease with both stars and commoners.
Mayes’ pastor since 2002, the Rev. Jeff Johnsen of Denver United Methodist Church, showed pictures of Mayes with notables including the Rev. Billy Graham, Minnie Pearl, former President Ronald Reagan and Johnny Cash. But it was random people he’d meet on the street that always lit up Mayes, Johnsen said.
“There are thousands and thousands of people who would say he was their friend but had never met him,” said Johnsen. “He had that kind of magnetic personality. He loved people, and people loved him.”
Mayes launched WBTV’s first scheduled news show in 1952 as “Your Esso Reporter,” a 15-minute dinnertime newscast sponsored by the oil company.
Television was still in its infancy, but its power soon became evident to Mayes, who had started in Charlotte at WBT-AM (1110). Wherever he’d go in the region, people would recognize him on the street and treat him as an honored guest.
In 1982, Mayes left WBTV and joined the upstart news team at rival WSOC (Channel 9) with Bill Walker and Doreen Gentzler.
“Doug worked at WBTV for years and then moved over to WSOC so he could get the audience that wasn’t watching WBTV,” said Ty Boyd, a veteran Charlotte broadcaster.
Michael Andrews, a former executive vice president of the Shriners, said Mayes was a tireless worker for the Oasis Temple and supporter of Shriners children’s hospitals.
“Some people you remember,” said Andrews, “and some people you never forget.”
Mayes was instrumental in creating a positive image for the Shriners through his public relations work,” Andrews said.
Mayes, 93, died Sunday after a period of declining health and a series of strokes.