Bill Leslie farewell tour: Come say good-bye in person

After 45 years in broadcasting, Bill Leslie announced Wednesday that he plans to retire from WRAL-TV at the end of June.

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After 46 years in broadcasting, Bill Leslie is retiring from WRAL-TV at the end of June.

Bill has answered the pre-dawn wake-up call of WRAL's Morning News for the past 25 years. "Getting up before 2:30 a.m. can be tough, but after a cup of coffee, I am ready to go again," Bill said. "I draw energy from my colleagues, including Renee, Elizabeth, Brian and Lena. They’re such great professionals and dear friends. They work so hard, they care so much, and they make me laugh."

WRAL viewers can say good-bye in person to Leslie during a series of meet-and-greet events in our viewing area. He will sign autographs, hand out some custom Bill Leslie merchandise and reminisce with viewers and friends. You may even see Bill perform!

Where to say goodbye to Bill

Monday, June 18: Raleigh says goodbye at Mia Francesca
Tuesday, June 19
Wednesday, June 20
Thursday, June 21
Friday, June 22

More ways to honor Bill

The week following the Farewell Tour is Bill's last week on the anchor desk. Tune in to see daily surprises for Bill and greetings from viewers in the WRAL Morning News and WRAL Noon News. WRAL will also air a 30-minute special looking back at Bill's distinguished broadcasting career. "Bill Leslie: An Extraordinary Career" airs Thursday, June 28 at 7 p.m. Watch Bill's final newscast on Friday, June 29 at noon.

A reflection: Bill's time at WRAL

"He's reliably helped viewers begin their day with a perfect blend of credibility and personality," WRAL News Director Rick Gall said. "Bill has been able to really connect with morning viewers, who've appreciated his upbeat outlook and personable delivery. He's someone you would welcome to sit at the breakfast table."

A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bill started his career in radio. He worked at stations in Raleigh, Norfolk, Va., and Houston before becoming news director of WRAL-FM and the North Carolina News Network. Bill joined WRAL-TV in 1984 and has worked behind the scenes, in the field, as the Tar Heel Traveler and from the anchor desk.

"Bill is a true journalist who understands and cares about the stories he's sharing. He's one of the best at breaking news and continuous coverage," Gall said.

Bill covered Pope John Paul II's visit in 1987, national political conventions and President Obama's second inauguration. He interviewed President George H.W. Bush, first lady Barbara Bush, evangelist Rev. Billy Graham and the late CBS News correspondent Charles Kuralt. His exemplary reporting on the environment led to testimony before Congress in 1991 about the Navy's dumping of plastic waste off the North Carolina coast and helped prompt major changes in regulations.

"I will miss the excitement of the newsroom when a big story is unfolding," Bill said. "In these moments, we are covering history when it’s red hot, when it’s full of electricity and sparks are flying in every direction. I love being part of a great news team that can quickly thrust itself into a huge breaking story with many angles and deliver meaningful stories to the people at home on various news platforms."

Bill has won more than 70 major news awards, including two Peabody Awards, often referred to as the Pulitzer Prize of broadcasting. He has produced several award-winning documentaries for WRAL-TV, including "Troubled Rivers," which won the National Society of Professional Journalists' Distinguished Public Service Award. He is also the long-time co-host of the WRAL Raleigh Christmas Parade.

"His contributions on and off the air are vast and impressive," Gall said.

Beyond broadcasting, Bill is an accomplished musician. He has seen eight CDs ranked on world music charts, and his music has been performed by the North Carolina Symphony and the Tar River Philharmonic Orchestra. He is a popular storyteller and author of a book featuring his father’s watercolors of western North Carolina.

"I have so many things I want to do when I retire," he said. "I’d like to elevate my skills as a photographer. I’d like to learn how to play the hammered dulcimer. I want to write a second book. I’d love to compose a soundtrack for a movie. I’d like to do some more serious hiking like I did in New Zealand in 2009. I may also take a yoga class. Plus, I want to find new ways to help others through public service."

In retirement, Bill also will get to spend more time with family, including his wife, Cindy, children Lauren and Will and granddaughter Elizabeth.

"I will sleep in just a little bit, but not so much that I miss the sunrise," he said. "That is the most beautiful time of the day. I am most alive in the mornings. That’s my high energy time and creative time."

Bill will certainly have plenty to do when he retires. Expect that to include more storytelling for WRAL.


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