The 1st WRAL-TV Staff 1956

Throwback Thursday: CBC History

These are a few of the people who were part of the inaugural staff of WRAL-TV in 1956. Some worked double-duties at WRAL radio and WRAL television. See if you can place the correct name with the picture.

1. He was the first news director and anchor.

Bill Armstrong

A. Sam Beard
B. Bill Armstrong
C. Joel Lawhon
D. Ray Reeve

 

2. She was the first “Romper Room” teacher.

Jo Ann Federspiel, Romper Room Teacher

A. Jo Ann Federspiel
B. Scottie Stephenson
C. Bette Elliott
D. Helen Rogers

 

3. The man wearing the white shirt was the first chief engineer.

Virgil Duncan & Lee Poole

A. Ted Lester
B. Virgil Duncan
C. P.B. Jernigan
D. Lee Poole

 

4. He was the first weatherman and fill-in sportscaster.

Bob Knapp

A. Ray Reeve
B. Charlie Harville
C. Bob Knapp
D. Woody Durham

 

5. He was the first program director.

George Hall

A. George Hall
B. Jack Markham
C. Herb Marks
D. Paul Montgomery

 

6. He was the first sports director, and a bit of a character.

Ray Reeve

A. James R. Bond
B. Ray Reeve
C. Lennie Wirtz
D. C.D. Chesley

 

7. He was the first director of promotions and public relations.

David Witherspoon

A. David Witherspoon
B. Rowell Gormon
C. Steve Grissom
D. Bill Armstrong

 

Answers:

1. B. Bill Armstrong
Bill Armstrong was WRAL-TV’s first News Director. Armstrong held that role from the station’s sign-on in 1956 to 1966. Armstrong was a “one-man-news operation” in WRAL’s early days, chasing down the news then reporting it himself from the anchor desk. Among the highlights of his WRAL news career was an interview with Neil Armstrong, who was training at UNC-Chapel Hill at the time and later became the first astronaut on the moon. Bill Armstrong died March 30, 2005 at the age of 80.

2. A. Jo Ann Federspiel
Jo Ann Federspiel was a native of South Carolina and a former school teacher. She was the first of several “Romper Room” teachers.

3. B. Virgil Duncan
Virgil Duncan was a broadcasting engineer who successfully made the transition from radio to television. He simultaneously served as chief engineer of WRAL radio and WRAL-TV.
The patent for Wide Range Tunnel Diode Oscillator was awarded to Duncan in 1962. The invention was useful for feeding background music into distribution systems for TV and FM radio sets.

4. C. Bob Knapp
Bob Knapp came to WRAL from Richmond, Virginia. He was WRAL-TV’s first weathercaster, joining the staff on December 13, 1956. That was two days before the station signed on the air. He was best known for the “Atlantic Weatherman” segments where he would deliver the forecast wearing the full uniform of a service station attendant.
Knapp not only handled weather, he also reported and anchored sports and filled in for Ray Reeve when necessary.

5. A. George Hall

6. B. Ray Reeve
When WRAL-TV signed on the air in 1956, Ray Reeve was its first Sports Director and Sports Anchor – roles he maintained until his retirement in 1973. WRAL-TV referred to Ray Reeve as the “Dean of Sportscasters,” and it turns out his contemporaries agreed. In 1967 Reeve was elected to the NC Sports Hall of Fame—becoming the first broadcaster to be so honored.
Reeve was a graduate of Dartmouth College. He died in 1980.

7. A. David Witherspoon
David Witherspoon served as Director of Promotion for WRAL-TV and also as General Manager of the National Opera Company, which was founded by Capitol Broadcasting Company CEO A.J. Fletcher.

 

Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.

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