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Brian Shrader's Siteseeing Blog

Good News, "Southern Sportsman" Fans!

Posted May 14, 2007
Updated June 6, 2007

Thanks for the great response to my Friday blog post about "The Southern Sportsman."  I'm glad we could unlock some great memories for you.

I've got some good news!  We have permission to put clips of the show on WRAL.com.  I'm going to bring in my tapes this week and get them on the Web site.  Watch my blog here for the latest.  I was watching some this weekend -- it's sublime television.

I just got off the phone with Franc White.  A manager here at WRAL-TV had his phone number, so I gave him a call to get permission to put a clip of the show here on WRAL.com.

We had a great conversation.   Franc spends the day writing.  He's done articles recently for "American Hunter," "Sporting Classics," and he's got some articles out to "The Atlantic Monthly" and "Harper's." 

Franc also just finished the first draft of a book about North Carolina's environment.  If you remember the show, he had some great commentaries at the end of almost every episode -- usually about the environment and politics. (Remember his "Don't Re-Elect Anybody -- Not Even Your Mama" bumper stickers?)  Well, Franc still has the fire about these issues -- from hog lagoons to the falling water table in the eastern part of the state.  He says the cleanest place to fish in North Carolina is his septic tank, but the lid's stuck.

(By the way, he's still got the runway for his airplane -- said he'd probably have to mow it today -- but his health prevents him from flying these days.)

Franc was born in Alabama, and some of his recent writing has been about growing up during The Great Depression.  He was a correspondent in Italy during World War II.  He came back to the United States and worked at The Birmingham News.  Franc then started in radio at WSOC in Charlotte.  He moved to the TV side of WSOC and worked there as a reporter for 14 years before doing "The Southern Sportsman."

We talked about the history of "The Southern Sportsman."  It started in March 1972 as "The Carolina Sportsman" on WITN-TV in Washington, NC.  It expanded to 34 stations at the height of its syndication.  He would come in and record two episodes every two weeks here at WRAL-TV, usually in the afternoon.  In the last few years of the show, it was carried on cable and satellite sports networks in 17 states.

Despite sponsor's pleas for the show to go on, Franc retired 1,086 episodes later -- in August 1996 at age 70.   For the next several years, he moved back and forth from his homes in Hokitika, New Zealand, and Hookerton.  He's back in Hookerton, but loves New Zealand and said he would love to live there permanently.  Franc said it's the most beautiful place on Earth, and he described the incredible fishing down there.

After he retired, the master tapes went in the airplane hangar, and they decayed.  So, any shows you have in your private tape collection likely are the only surviving episodes.

On the phone this morning, he was the same Franc White you watched for years.  Funny, opinionated and a first-class storyteller.  I can't wait to read his book. 

Also, he's not active on the Web, so I'm going to send him your comments from these blog posts. 

Franc says he doesn't miss having to get up every morning to go fishing and record it for the show.  But he misses going to some of the more exotic locales -- like New Zealand and Costa Rica.

"It's been a good run," he said.

9 Comments

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  • Brian Shrader May 15, 2007

    We should have this video available later today on WRAL.com. I'll post it on my blog when it's available.

  • jetset May 15, 2007

    Thanks for tracking him down. I bet it was interesting taking with him.

  • Duke1977 May 14, 2007

    Thanks for tracking all this (and him) down. I always enjoyed his show and I'm looking forward to watching the clips.

  • brant58 May 14, 2007

    I too, have really missed Franc's show. I went to his restaurant a few times and it was always a culinary delight. When my daughter was old enough, I took the advice he always closed with, and that advice is still good today. "Do yourself a favor, take a kid fishing".

  • davidgnews May 14, 2007

    Tragedy on the tapes, but a great 'reconnection' for all of us who watched! I may have one or two shows on tape for when I didn't get up early LOL.

    This is one show I've always missed since it went off. God bless Franc. I wish you could get him to do an encore 'special' or something, even if it's web-only (just a thought). If he's short on video, at least you know he has the stories. Web media would be cool for him.

    The best thread yet, IMHO. Thanks again, Brian.

  • Outside the Beltline May 14, 2007

    I remember growing up watching The Southern Sportsman, even though I was really too young to get a good feel for what was going on besides liking Franc's dog.

    I grew up in the Washington, NC area, so Franc White was a big character and very well known in the town. My family and I sometimes saw his zebra-striped plane at the Greenville airport as we drove by. Say what you will about the man, he did leave an impression, and he showed off a lot of the beautiful scenery of North Carolina.

  • kmason910 May 14, 2007

    Thank you for your efforts, Brian---and hopefully we can try and get the music issues resolved!! Some of us are "recall-challenged", and perhaps believe we remember something that may not have actually been the case.

    I can imagine that Franc is very concerned about the state of the environment we have created in our area. He has a passion for the outdoors, and he is not afraid to share his beliefs and convictions. Thanks for bringing smiles to a few faces by reminding us of a good man.

  • chilloutduck May 14, 2007

    He did have a great show! I would love to see some of the old reruns (if they existed). However, "GREAT PERSONALITY"?? I beg your pardon, but did YOU ever have any dealings with this man? Regardless of what we think or thought of him, he sure thought highly of "HIMSELF"!

  • patti3 May 14, 2007

    So glad to actually hear from Franc White. Too bad about the tapes ruining. Hope we can hear from him more. He had a great show. And great personality. Sure miss him.

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WRAL's Brian Shrader blogs about cool video clips and other interesting Web sites. If you have any video you would like to share, please let us know.