IN HIS WORDS
Luther Masingill audio clip from 2010:
STATEMENT FROM THE HAMILTON COUNTY MAYOR
We are deeply saddened this morning to learn of the passing of Luther Masingill.
Luther is a Hamilton County icon, not only for his decades of broadcasting service, but for his community efforts throughout his memorable life. Luther impacted generations of people, not only in Hamilton County, but throughout the region with the announcements of school closings due to snow, returning lost pets to their owners or just bringing joy to us with his various radio and television programs.
As a child like many others of my generation, I grew up listening to Luther. I had the pleasure of interacting with Luther throughout my public service career and I always walked away from each encounter with a smile, Luther was unique, special and beloved.
Our thoughts and prayer are with Mary and their children, Joanie and Jeff today.
Mayor Jim Coppinger
Luther Masingill held the same job at the same radio station in the same time slot for 74 years. During that time he told Chattanooga listeners of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and he helped reunite thousands of dogs and cats with their owners.
The man simply known as Luther died Sunday night in a local hospital after a short illness. He was 92.
Masingill's first day on the job at WDEF was as an 18-year-old on New Year's Eve in 1940. Other than his time in the military working as a reporter during World War II, he has been at the station ever since. He also worked at WDEF-TV 12 since it signed on in 1954.
He is a National Marconi award winner and a member of both the National Radio Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame.
"I'd like to say he taught me about radio, but really he taught me how to be a good father, and a good husband and a good person," says Masingill's on-air partner for the last 15 years James Howard.
Howard was one of those listeners who Masingill helped locate a lost dog, and he was at the station Monday morning taking calls from listeners remembering the legendary Masingill. Known as one of the friendliest and cheeriest people around, Howard was emotional talking about his friend and colleague.
"He also taught me that the key in radio is to be real and to love my community and to answer that phone. "Don't let it ring more than twice because on the other end is somebody you can help. Radio is not about car giveaways and promos. It's about public service, but I knew that before I started here because I listened to Luther."
Tommy Jett started his broadcast career here in 1961, and it was Masingill who inducted him into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame in 2013. He says Masingill had everything it took to be on the air for so long.
"To have the fortitude to be on the air for this long you have to have a love of people and a love of country and a love of God, and you have to keep your private life to yourself and present yourseld as a caring person and Luthers was that.
"Luther holds a lot of records in broadcasting that will never be topped."
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said in a prepared statement that "Luther is a Hamilton County icon, not only for his decades of broadcasting service, but for his community efforts throughout his memorable life."
Not only would Luther devote airtime to helping people find their lost pets, he often called back a day or two later to check up. He was also known for his sense of humor on and off the air. Longtime listeners remembers the days when Chattanooga News-Free Press writer Buddy Houts would call into the show. One of his favorite gimmicks was to call in to offer football tickets, for free, to the upcoming Tennessee-Alabama game. Houts would proceed to give out his phone number, and would hang up before giving out the last digit, leaving Masingill to answer the angry calls.
Asked a few years ago to describe his morning routine, he said, "I kept up and touch the tips of my shoes 50 times, and then I put them on."
Read tomorrow's Times Free Press for more memories of Luther Masingill.
Please share your comments and memories about Luther below.