1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


My Life in Radio, Part III
Herman King 08

I spent six years of my fifty years in radio at WRON, my home town station. I guess the highlight of my years there occurred during the 1960 Democratic primary when I met Jack Kennedy. The Venables were ardent democrats and owning a radio station was opportunity for an inside track to the candidates. Jim offered the his services to Kennedy in his primary battle with Hubert Humphrey. He arranged to have JFK be interviewed on WRON. A coup for a small-town radio station and free publicity for Kennedy. When the Kennedy limousine pulled up in front of the studios in Fairlea a crowd of citizens had gathered. When JFK emerged, looking boyishly handsome, tousled hair and all, the crowd cheered. He smiled and waved at them.

Then Kennedy and his entourage came inside. A curtain seemed to have dropped over Kennedy's face. He looked grim and unsmiling. Teddy was with him, a rumpled-looking teenager. The big city media encircled him, as if protecting him from the yokels. They were the usual cosmopolitan lot, oily with toupees slipping over foreheads. Jim Venable was a democrat and obviously supportive of Kennedy. But he was a fair-minded person. He selected one of his Republican friends to interview Kennedy. Ed White was a cool and intelligent retiree who wrote an excellent column for the Charleston Gazette. I was the announcer who introduced Kennedy and Ed. I quickly got a dose of political medicine. Kennedy became flustered when Ed wouldn't let him stick to his rehearsed formula. He grew more and more annoyed and abruptly canceled the interview, storming out of the studio saying he had another appointment.

I never met Franklin Roosevelt Jr. who was Kennedy's hatchet man for the campaign. While JFK stayed on the "high road," Roosevelt played gutter politics. For instance, he inferred that H. H. was a draft-dodger because he was never in the service, while extolling JFK's military experience (which largely consisted of allowing his boat to be overrun by a Japanese carrier). I understand that after the campaign Eleanor Roosevelt made her son apologize to Humphrey.

The 1960 West Virginia Democratic Primary figured hugely in Theodore White's excellent series of books THE MAKING OF THE PRESIDENT.

Another thing that happened to me while at WRON was false hope that I might make it as a songwriter. I wrote lyrics for a song that was set to music by Lee Erwin, who was the music arranger for Arthur Godfrey's television show. Do you remember Godfrey? At the time he had more TV exposure than any other entertainment. One of his musical discoveries was an 18-year old named Johnny Nash. Nash sounded a lot like Johnny Mathis, but his voice had more clarity. He sang my song on Godfrey's TV show at least three times. Godfrey had sheet music of it published by his Camelot imprint. But despite the publicity gained by such exposure, the song was never picked up commercially. Steve Allen had warned me that songwriting was a lost cause for beginners.

So when I left WRON in 1962, hoping to find greener pastures, I left some good memories behind despite the disappointments.