Celebrate National Radio Day on August 20, 2018 by listening to an interview with longtime Chattanooga broadcaster Luther Masingill, whose long career meant that he was one the air during the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor AND September 11, when the Twin Towers were hit. As a young man, Luther worked the night shift at WDEF, and first signed on the air on New Year’s Eve in 1940. Seventy-two years later Masingill was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in honor of his long career as the “Voice of Chattanooga.” Enjoy the following excerpts from the transcript of his 2010 interview or listen to the entire interview in our Digital Collections.
Luther Masingill on his start in broadcasting:
As a young man I worked in a service station after school. Well while in that kid job, I kept waiting on a customer called Joe Engel. Joe Engel was the owner of the Chattanooga Lookouts and lived up on the lake and he took this route to and from work at the ball park and he’d stop and get gas and I’d wipe his windshield. One day I, I had read in the morning paper that um, he was going to open a station, a radio station. And I was interested in radio at the time. And the young—the people in the radio station—we had the communication system between one building and another building, a building where the tires were, was entirely separate from the part where you added up how much gas they got and everything. And um, I—he said, “Yeah, I’m, in fact I’m having interviews tonight. Come on down.” He said, “You want a job?” and I said, “Well, yeah, yeah. I could, I could answer the phone.” A lot of request programs were popular then. This is how I got into radio.
Luther Masingill on pollution in Chattanooga:
We were in an area where your car was just coated with a rust, [coughs] little specks of rust because of the particles, the metal particles, that came from these two factories–Combustion and Wheland. And you don’t—you’d have to have your car painted every two or three years if you kept the car. That wasn’t good for your lungs either, but on a foggy day, that stuff would settle on your car and you’d go to work in the morning with a nice shiny car and you come home and it would be covered with this, which if you didn’t wash it off right away it would eat down into your paint, but that was one of the industries that we were famous for and just hired hundreds and hundreds of people working there in those plants and we lost that to foreign powers, you know.
Luther Masingill’s interview and transcript is available courtesy of the Chattanooga Public Library and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Special Collections.