WRAL TV

WRAL honors Suiter for decades of service

Posted December 18, 2008 6:10 p.m. EST
Updated December 19, 2008 7:41 p.m. EST

— After more than two decades of anchoring the 6 p.m. sportscasts, Tom Suiter said farewell to the desk on Thursday.

The WRAL legend was honored during his final 6 p.m. newscast with a tribute from fellow sports anchor Bob Holliday.

During the newscast, Holliday presented Suiter with an Extra Effort Award for his legendary broadcast career.

“Just being with you all has just been the highlight of my life,” Suiter said to anchors David Crabtree and Pam Saulsby.

Suiter also received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor granted to a citizen in the state.

In a taped message, Gov. Mike Easley reflected on his memories of Suiter.

“I still remember when I started little league baseball. I was on your dad’s team and your team, and I was the youngest and you were about the oldest. You’d always come along and encourage me and you were nice to all the kids. From that day forward I knew you were special, and you’re great with sports,” Easley said.

Suiter thanked viewers for welcoming him into their homes each night.

“The people have been so wonderful. I’ve received so many cards and letters and e-mails and phone calls,” Suiter said.

Following the broadcast, Suiter was presented with a large sheet cake featuring pictures of him through the decades.

Suiter will continue to do special assignments for WRAL, such as his Extra Effort Award and the Football Friday show. Jeff Gravley will anchor both the early and late shows during the week, beginning Friday.

Suiter has worked at WRAL since 1971 and has anchored the 6 p.m. news since 1981.

Also on Thursday, WRAL News announced a scholarship in Suiter’s name. Each year two Extra Effort award recipients will be selected to receive the $500 scholarships.

Friends and colleagues from throughout the course of Suiter's long career joined him on the set Thursday.

WRAL anchors Charlie Gaddy and Bob DeBardelaben were on hand and were among the first to share their memories and well-wishes in a party at the station after the newscast.

DeBardelaben offered three keys to a successful retirement, "Stay busy. Stay healthy. Have a working wife."

After each member of the current WRAL Sports team shared a story, producers from Suiter's past took the microphone.

Suiter has worked with two generations in the Jennings family. Father Jay is a photographer for Football Friday. When his son was born in 1982, Suiter announced it on the air. Decades later, that child, Jason Jennings, is a reporter for WRAL Sports.