State News

Longtime N.C. journalist Roy Hardee dies at 79

Posted April 1, 2010 12:35 p.m. EDT
Updated April 4, 2010 11:16 p.m. EDT

— Roy Hardee, a journalist who chronicled the news of eastern North Carolina for more than 50 years through words, pictures and film, died early Thursday. He was 79.

His son, Lee Hardee, said his father died in a hospice in Kansas City, Mo. The elder Hardee was hospitalized March 21 and was suffering from complications from advanced Parkinson's disease. Hardee and his wife of 55 years, Margaret Windham, moved to the area in August 2008 to live with their son.

Hardee died in his wife's arms.

"Roy Hardee was an old school newsman," said CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts, who worked for Hardee at WNCT in Greenville. "He loved God, his family, the news and barbecue. He believed all news was local and news mattered. He didn't serve readers or viewers or focus groups. He served his neighbors."

Pitts said Hardee "knew more cops and firefighters by name and their spouses' names than most of us know our own relatives."

Hardee began his career in television news as a one-man crew. He shot his own black-and-white film without sound, processed it on site, edited it himself and arranged for the footage to be projected over his shoulder as he anchored the newscast.

Hardee also used still photography to illustrate life in eastern North Carolina, especially the destruction caused by hurricanes along the coast in the 1950s.

His zealous pursuit of news, lengthy tenure on the job, passion for the profession and concern for his employees were cited when Hardee was named news director of the year at the Radio and Television News Directors Association of the Carolinas in 1996.

Hardee spent his first five years covering news for print media. He first joined WNCT-TV in 1958 and stayed there for seven years, working first as a photographer then as news director. He returned to newspapers in 1965, then joined WITN-TV in 1972.

Ten years later, he returned to WNCT and served as that station's news director until 1997. When he retired in 1999, he was WITN's Greenville bureau chief.

In 1982, The Associated Press in North Carolina established the Roy Hardee Award for outstanding individual achievement. He took it home himself in 1985 and 1995.

"I've enjoyed it. There have been highs and lows in radio, television and print," Hardee said in an interview in 1999. "It's been an overall good experience I miss."

A memorial service is tentatively planned for April 24 in Greenville.

Hardee is survived by his wife, son, daughter-in-law, Kathleen; and grandchildren, Bret, 26; Matt, 24; Alex,16; and Jordan, 13.