Ask Anything: 10 questions with former WRAL Anchor Charlie Gaddy
Former WRAL anchor Charlie Gaddy answers your questions about his most memorable stories, what he misses most and why he says "Camp luh-JERN."Posted — Updated
Dear William: This may be more of an answer than you want, but it is difficult to select just one in each of your categories. Among the biggest are: the tornado that ripped into Raleigh the night of Nov. 28, 1988, killing two and leaving many of our people homeless. Jay Jennings was the photographer. And the 50th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. The photographer was Richard Adkins.
As to which story meant the most, the two that come to mind, both involving the military, are the D-Day commemoration and the build-up to the first Gulf War in Saudi Arabia.
In June 1994, they came back … rolling in on tour buses to the cheers and tears of the French people. We saw young fathers with their children on their shoulders, waving American flags, old people waving and weeping. So the old men who came back to Normandy after 50 years will die with memories of the cheers. They have not been forgotten.
Richard and I were working in the little town of Ste. Mere Eglise, which is where the 82 Airborne troops from Fort Bragg jumped into the dark night 50 years before. I found out that a woman who was a teen then and had vivid memories of that night lived on the outskirts of town. She agreed to do an interview with me and this is the story she shared: She was awakened before daylight that night by gunfire and shouting. She ran to her window to see American paratroopers landing in her yard. She told me she dropped to her knees to give thanks because she realized that the Americans had come to liberate them after four years of German occupation. As she recalled the night 50 years before, her eyes filled with tears. So did mine.
As Art and I waited that night in what is called the green ramp at Fort Bragg before leaving for Saudi Arabia, we were told that it would be at least an hour before we took off. The young troops rushed for the various telephone booths. I was walking around to stretch my legs when I passed a phone booth to hear a soldier say, “Don’t worry, Mama, Charlie Gaddy will be on my plane.” He was trying to convince his mother that if I were on board, surely nothing could happen. I was touched that the young man had a frightened mom on the line and was grabbing at straws in making the best pitch he could to comfort her.
Having pointed out the two stories above, I hasted to add the two longest running stories that had tremendous impact on North Carolina since I have been in Raleigh. They are, at least in my opinion, the integration of the public schools and public accommodations, and on the political scene … the rise of the N.C. Republican Party.
Dear Monica, thank you for your question and the kind words. There is a palpable energy in a newsroom every day that one gets addicted to. It makes a work week fly. I also miss the young people behind the scenes that I was privileged to work with. As I got older, they just got younger. I miss hitting that wall of young energy I encountered every day. I loved them all and still maintain some contact with them. A news organization cannot sustain itself without youth. They were quite wonderful. I don’t miss appearing on TV. I did that twice a day for two decades. That’s enough.
My overall answer to your question is that the new technology is exciting. I was talking recently with Rick Gall, WRAL’s news director, who explained that the news is streamed right on to the Web site as soon as it happens. Reporters call in developments in a story and it is edited by one of six web news journalists and filed online. The young woman who asked me to participate in these viewer questions is Kelly Hinchcliffe who is in charge of this feature. Kelly is one of the web editors.
Dear viewer from Morrisville, one of the most heart-rending stories you can cover is the aftermath of a tornado. Try to imagine sitting in your own home right now with your family and belongings and all the things you hold dear when out of the sky dives a black spiral and in no more than a few seconds everything you had is gone.
Dear Jennifer, thank you for the kind words and for watching us through the years.
TV news is a team sport and I was very fortunate to be part of a special group. Bobbie Battista and I were among the first male-female anchor teams. (I believe the first in the market.) She boosted the ratings. Her impact was such that she went on to become a superstar at CNN and an international sensation in some European countries. After all these years, people still ask me about her. It was a joy to see her for our 2006 reunion newscast. As you saw, she still has her clout. It was fun to sit beside her again and present one more newscast. She was amazing.
Add to the mix weatherman Bob DeBardelaben, one of the country’s strongest and most beloved. Formerly and old radio pro, he has one of the best voices in the business. Add to that his friendly and charismatic approach and you have a winner.
Tom Suiter provided the hottest sportscast in the business and worked every day until just recently.
After Bobbie came other strong, professional co-anchors: Donna, Adele, Pam and Debra. Following Bob was Greg Fishel, an icon in his own right.
At one time, our one-hour newscast was the highest-rated local news program in America. I don’t say that with any arrogance, but we were very proud of that. The reason for our success must go to owner James F. “Jim” Goodmon who long ago charged us with becoming one of the best stations in the nation. He is the heart and soul of our operation. It was he who put together these anchor teams, management teams and provided the best equipment in the industry … so we had no excuses.
As far as “filling in once in a while,” I think not. It would only be confusing. Besides … David Crabtree is better than I am.
Dear Denise, the answer is yes. All of the Gaddys, wherever your find them, originally came from Scotland. My ancestors settled in Anson County, N.C., just on the border of South Carolina.
I am Charles Reece Gaddy, the elder son of Charlie Frison Gaddy of Biscoe, N.C., and the grandson of Holden G. Gaddy, an Anson County farmer.
I believe I covered your question about the reunion newscast in the above answer, and I thank you for the kind words.
Dear Jill, I have been a volunteer for United Cerebral palsy of North Carolina ever since my station got me involved in its annual fundraising telethons. UCP has now joined with Easter Seals, and I do what I can to help raise funds and be a general cheerleader for them. I was honored to have the child development center on Chapanoke Drive in Raleigh named for me. The center takes children from infancy to 5 years old who have a variety of challenges. A dedicated and passionate staff works to provide the very best therapy and teaching for them. I just attended the graduation of the 5-year-olds and their joy and confidence in the future always inspires me because these kids will now go to public school in the fall. And I must say that seeing a 5-year-old in a cap and gown will touch your heart.
Other interests: I am past vice-chair of the Duke Eye Center advisory board. Nancy and I were on the board during the fundraising for the new Albert Eye Institute on the Duke campus. My interest in a medical facility dedicated to saving sight goes back to my childhood when my father was diagnosed with glaucoma, which in those days usually meant eventual blindness. He lost most of his sight.
I am constantly inspired by the dedicated physicians and researchers who are so passionate about saving the sight of children and adults.
Dear Pat, thank you for the question. The crux of the story is simple. A person’s name can only be properly pronounced one way … the way the person says it. But I’ll share the details.
When I came to Raleigh in 1960 to work as a staff announcer at WPTF Radio, an old program director named Graham Poyner sat me down to go over some pronunciations that might be tricky. He was a stickler for correctness and I’m glad he was. On his list was Camp Lejeune. It was luh-JERN, not luh-JUNE.
When I went over to television in 1970, I naturally carried that pronunciation with me. Every time I used it in the news I got letters, threats from marines and side glances from my co-workers. Then I decided to research the story.
The famous Marine base is named for Lt. General John Archer Lejeune, a highly decorated hero of World War I, the first commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and later the commandant of Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. When I contacted VWI, they told me that a daughter of the famous general was still alive and lived near the campus. I contacted her and she agreed to do an interview. I got permission to take our helicopter to VMI for the story. On Dec. 8, 1983, pilot Mike Allen, photographer Bruce Wittman and I flew to the beautiful campus in the Virginia mountains and went to the home of Ms. Lejeune. (I think her first name was Laura.) My very first question was “How do you pronounce your name?” The old lady smiled and in her soft voice replied “luh-JERN.” When I told her that Peter Jennings (we were ABC at the time) and all the network and local anchors and reporters called the name luh-JUNE or luh-ZHUNE, she just smiled and repeated “luh-JERN.”
The people at VMI were very helpful and seemed happy that we were doing the story, They gave me a copy of a handout they gave to the press indicating the last syllable of the name rhymed with the word “urn.”
We put the story together and aired it, wrongly thinking it would put an end to the controversy. Not so. When a story came up involving the base, as they often do, the reactions were still the same. I was accused of just trying to “fancy up” the name. The outcry was “everybody says Camp luh-JUNE.” My crusade fell on deaf ears.
Why should we desecrate the name of an American hero and his descendants by mispronouncing the name? It’s an insult. It is just as easy to say luh-JERN as it is to say luh-JUNE.
In a recent story by Martha Quillin of the Raleigh News & Observer, a retired Marine named Patrick Brent has arrived from his home in Hawaii to urge Marine public affairs officers and reporters to call the man what he called himself. It will be interesting to see what happens.
In Marine history, Lejeune has been called “the greatest Leatherneck of them all.”
I hope Patrick Brent has better luck than I. Semper Fi!
Dear Phil, I remember your good father James very well and yes, we did produce a music special about 35 years ago. Music has been one of the joys in my life since childhood. Everyone in my family sang. My parents bought us a second-hand upright piano, which my sister played. I played trumpet in the school band. When my mother was young, she was a church soloist. My sister Joann holds a music degree. For a time, she and I performed a little musical act that we presented to some civic clubs and colleges. The talented man who played piano for us and composed the arrangements was the late Roy Palmer of Raleigh.
A short time after that TV special, I moved into the news department and stopped singing in public. I now just sing for my own amazement in the shower.
Thank you, Lois, for the kind words. So far, I have been blessed with excellent health for which I am most thankful. Glad you think I am still “young looking,” but please don’t look too closely. An old friend of mine once said he looked better on radio than TV. I think I do, too.
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