Local radio and television legend Luther Masingill passed away after a brief illness on Monday morning. He was 92.
Known to generations of Chattanooga listeners as simply "Luther,” local radio and television personality Luther Masingill shared the news around the world and around Chattanooga, and was considered the patron saint of lost dogs.
He was on the air for two catastrophic events in American history, Pearl Harbor and September 11, with a career than spanned over 70 years.
He was inducted into both the Tennessee and national Radio Halls of Fame and was still broadcasting on the WDEF-FM 92.3 morning show and the WDEF-TV midday news show.
Previous story from 2012: Calling his achievement "a broadcasting record that will never be broken," the giants of the industry welcomed Luther Masingill into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Luther's family and friends took the Windy City by storm that night, watching the WDEF legend receive radio's highest honor at the age of 90. The event took place in the Hall's new permanent headquarters, The Museum of Broadcast Communications in downtown Chicago.
Luther began his storied career at WDEF radio on New Year's Eve in 1940, and with the exception of a two-year stint in the military during World War II, has headlined the station's popular morning show ever since. Incredibly, among his lesser-known achievements is another record: appearing daily on WDEF-TV since it signed on the air in 1954.
Luther's fellow living inductees are equally distinguished, despite their relative youth and inexperience. Oldies radio personality Art Laboe of Los Angeles is a spry 87. Former WLW Cincinnati host Gary Burbank, Dallas personality Ron Chapman, National Public Radio interviewer Terry Gross and Sirius XM's Howard Stern were also inducted, although Gross was unable to attend due to illness and Stern declined the invitation. Black radio pioneer Jack L. Cooper was inducted posthumously.
Hall of Fame founder and president Bruce DuMont said he was thrilled to meet Luther, and called him "an example of how a local radio personality can make a huge impact on a region. What he's done will never be equaled. I don't think there has been anyone in the history of broadcasting who has had the affection for, and has been loved by his audience more than Luther Masingill."
The Chattanooga radio personality was introduced by Nashville broadcaster Ralph Emery, himself a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and with Luther, a fellow inductee into this year's first class of the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame.
Emery cited Luther's claim to national fame, his longtime practice of informing listeners about dogs, lost and found (he was recently profiled on CBS News and the Associate Press about his "dog gone" reports).
Emery told the crowd, "Luther realized early on that the power of radio could be used for the common good, and he has built a life and career on that promise. He loves helping people, and that's why he's the longest running broadcaster in the history of the world."
Stepping on the stage to a standing ovation, Luther told the crowd, and a national radio audience, "I love what I do. I started at WDEF in 1940, and I've been there ever since. I feel good, and I hope to be doing this for a long time."
Referring to past honorees including Paul Harvey, Jack Benny, Larry King and Charles Osgood, he concluded, "This is a real honor. I'm so proud to be among these great people."
Smiling after the program, he said, "I've never had so many people take my picture, shake my hand and hug my neck ever in my life. You'd think I was somebody famous!"
Already known by generations of listeners on a first-name basis in his beloved hometown, his fame is finally spreading beyond the city limits, into the arms of an admiring national audience.