Story by Callie Starnes
Eyewitness News Reporter/Anchor

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- WPLZ radio personality Max Hackett has died.

A co-worker found Hackett's body in his home Monday morning.

Max Hackett was new to WPLZ, but no stranger to Chattanooga radio.

His death has stunned his co-workers who say Hackett was making a comeback.

On-air, WPLZ staff announced the death of one of their own.

Hackett, whose real name was Chester Smith III, was 53.

"I just told him to have a Happy New Year and I would see him on Monday, I didn't," says Louis Lee, co-host.

Louis Lee, says his co-host couldn't stop coughing Friday and promised to see a doctor.

Then Hackett didn't show up for his Monday morning broadcast.

"It's a two man show, it's just Max and I in the mornings and when half of that is gone you feel like you've lost a limb," says Lee.

Hackett's colleagues remember him for his time at WGOW-AM in the early 1990s as one of the originators of the station's talk format.

Hackett recently made a comeback in October, when he joined the team at WPLZ.

"He led by example in how good radio should sound," says Dave Strycker, station manager.

"He was really coming around, and he had made such a turn in his life," says Lee. "I would just hope people would know that Max was making a strong comeback, and he was going to turn this business on its ear again."

Though the comeback was brief, his colleagues say they will remember his intelligence, wit and ability to draw raw emotion out of callers and co-hosts.

Here is his obituary announcement:

Chester A. Smith III, "Max Hackett," 53, of Chattanooga, died unexpectedly on Monday, January 3, 2011.

Chester was born in Chattanooga to Helen Ward Smith and Chester A. Smith Jr. He was a graduate of Notre Dame High School and was a U.S. Navy veteran where he began his career as a radio journalist.

He was a longtime Chattanooga area radio talk show host known as Max Hackett, currently employed by Brewer Media at WPLZ-FM and was one of Chattanooga's first talk radio show hosts, starting at WGOW AM in 1990. He was the recipient of numerous journalism awards.

Surviving are his son, Jacob Christopher Smith of Ewa Beach, Hi.; mother, Helen Ward Lindemulder; brothers, Stephen C. Smith and Michael W. Smith; sisters, Susan Cannon, Darie Burton, Margaret Huffman and Gabie Smith; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his father.

Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 5, at the funeral home.

Funeral services and burial will be private.

Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of the donor's choice.

Arrangements are by the East Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory, and Florist, 404 South Moore Road.