Long before the internet, cell phones and television coverage about Watauga County, Bob White was the source of information for residents in the area.
(An editorial and tribute by Kenneth Reece, with special thanks to Glenn Hubbard. Feel free to send your comments and thoughts to
Having worked at WATA for most of my broadcasting career I find myself at a loss for words at the loss of a local radio star. I decided to make this more an editorial than a "news" story.
In a time when local radio was the only source of instant information, Bob White not only became a household name but a trusted source to residents in the area.
It would be hard to find anyone who grew up or lived in Watauga County during the 1980's and before who does not have a Bob White story to share. On a personal level I was just one of many kids who wanted to be in broadcasting in part because of Bob White. On the broader level parents and school children relied on Mr. White to provide them with important information, from weather to school closings, to homework assignments (when schools closed for many weeks in the 1970's) to calling out their names on the Birthday Club.
Glenn Hubbard grew up in the area and started in radio at WATA before working in larger markets and eventually becoming a professor of broadcast journalism. He shared his thoughts about Bob White:
"I'm sitting here in 2010, and I still remember "Ingrid" and "Josh" thanks to Bob White. They were regular callers on Bob's show. I think Josh liked to sing Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys on the air, and Bob let him -- many times -- much to the chagrin of my entire family as we ate our breakfast! I still remember certain records that Bob seemed to play every morning. I remember the way he would half-talk-half-sing "Happy birthday to..." as a way of killing time while he opened envelops. I remember thinking it was funny that the same goofy, silly guy who joked around constantly during most of his show became a serious newsman at the top of every hour. I remember that serious newsman announcing that a bomb had destroyed part of the Boone Mall, just a few months after the mall had opened. I remember how exciting it was on the one day of the year when, instead of hearing him name a bunch of people I didn't know, I got to hear Bob announce MY birthday. I also remember how disappointed I was when my birthday happened to fall during Bob's vacation.
My sense of what my community was all about when I was growing up consisted largely of what happened on Bob's show. I'm sure many others felt that way in those days too. When I think of the term "household name," I think of Bob, because his literally was. Just as my Mom might announce that breakfast was ready or it was time to leave for school, she would reference something Bob White said or did on the air. He was the very definition of "local celebrity," but not in the way we think of celebrities nowadays. We knew little about his private life, his background, or his politics. We just knew that he was there for us in the morning, making things a bit more fun and telling us some information we needed to know. It sounds so simple, but he did it so well"
It is rare if a week goes by that I am not ask by someone in the community about Bob White, so you might imagine the pit in my stomach when I was informed today (Monday Nov 1,2010) of his passing.
A resident of the area passed along this comment via email "Perhaps we should all gather at the Perkinsville Tunnel for a memorial service", I don't think I could have added anything more appropriate.
RIP Bob White, and thank you for contributions to the listeners and residents of Watauga County!
Per his online obituary from Johnson County Funeral Home.com:
"Bob White, age 76, went home to be with the Lord on October 30th, 2010 from the Mountain City Care Center.
Bob had a long and distinguished career in law enforcement, preaching and broadcasting. He most recently pastored Stateline Baptist Church in Laurel Bloomery, TN and at the Cove Creek and Middlefork Baptist Churches in Watauga County, NC. He was a longtime broadcaster and news director at WATA in Boone, NC. Bob broadcast the morning show on WATA and was the original voice of the Mountaineer on the ASU radio network. He received many awards for his broadcasting news work while at WJRI in Lenoir, NC and WTRC in Hickory, NC. Later in his career he worked at WMCT in Mountain City, TN. Bob served in law enforcement for several years in Watauga County, NC. He was born in Springfield, Ohio to the late Gertrude Carter and Samuel White.
Bob was a member of the First Baptist Church of Mountain City, TN.
In addition to his parents, a brother David Eugene White preceded him in death.
Daughter: Janice Olsen, Spruce Pine, NC
Son and daughter in-law: Kevin and Sue White of Gastonia, NC
Four Granddaughters: Lindsey Hardy, Spruce Pine, NC
Kayla Hardy, Marion, NC
Katelyn and Mackenzie White, Cramerton, NC
Great-Granddaughter: Hailey of Spruce Pine, NC"