DAVID CARROLL: RIP Bill McAfee, Chattanooga broadcaster, Tennessee legislator
I have just learned of the death of Bill McAfee, one of my favorite people. When I was growing up watching Chattanooga TV, Bill was one of the first faces I saw, and one of the first voices I heard. What a fine voice he had. Clear, distinctive, memorable. He was born to be a broadcaster, but at the age of 45, he took on a new challenge that also suited him well. He ran for a state legislative seat, winning twelve straight terms.
I first saw him on Channel 9, where he and Gil Norwood basically ran a two-man operation in that station’s early days of news broadcasting. They were far outmanned by the other two channels, but just like their affiliated ABC network, they eventually became equals. Gil was news director, and Bill did a little bit of everything else. He handled the weather forecasting for a while, anchored the 11 p.m. news, and did a terrific job on sports, where he won numerous awards. For a while, he did double duty on radio, hosting a gospel music program on WDOD-FM before reporting to work at Channel 9 later in the day.
In 1970, Gil started working behind the scenes, and Bill was teamed with Tom Willette.
Channel 9 came under new management in 1975, with lots of people moving in and out, so Bill switched to Channel 12, where he worked until he entered the political arena. In addition to his great service in Nashville, he also did some public relations work for a local hospital.
I saw Bill a few times in recent years, usually at a Red Bank supermarket or pharmacy, and he was always talking to friends. It seemed like he knew everybody. He had some health problems in recent years, but he was smiling every time I saw him. I was honored when his wife Janice asked me to autograph a copy of my Chattanooga Radio and Television book for his 80th birthday in 2011. I can’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I sure hope I told him he was one of the greats of local broadcasting, because he most definitely was.
Here is Bill’s obituary, from Chattanooga Funeral Home:
Bill H. McAfee, age 84, of Chattanooga, passed away on Saturday, September 12, 2015.Bill was born to the late Fulton M. McAfee and Lucille P. McAfee. He graduated from Red Bud High School in Gordon County, GA, where he excelled in baseball, both during and after his high school career. He attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Bill served our country in the Georgia National Guard, completing his service as a 1st Lieutenant. He was employed with Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta, GA.
Bill began his public broadcasting career, for which his is best remembered, in 1960, at radio station, WCGA, in Calhoun, GA, with a Southern Gospel recording program called “Supper Time.” He considered this to be one of the most enjoyable experiences in his media career path. Bill then moved to other radio stations, WBHF, Cartersville, GA and WCHK in Canton, GA. In 1963, he moved to Channel 9, WTVC in Chattanooga, as a booth announcer and within the year, he and Gil Norwood began a two-man live newscast. Bill was with Channel 9 for 12 ½ years when he moved to Channel 12, WDEF.
In 1976, Bill was elected in the 27th District for State Representative to the Tennessee General Assembly, where he served for 24 years until his retirement in 2000. He considered one of his greatest accomplishments was extending Highway 27 (Coolidge Highway or Corridor J) from Signal Mountain Road onward to Spring City, Dunlap and moving toward the Kentucky line which took 14 years. The bridge passing over Morrison Springs Road in Red Bank along Highway 27 was dedicated to him on September 21, 2000 for his efforts in extending this road.
Bill was the recipient of many Civic and Tourism-Related Accolades; he received the Knight of the Round Table Award for the Tennessee Tourism Industry in September of 2000. This was the only time this award was given to a person outside the actual tourism industry. He was the Hotel/Motel Tourism Leader of the year, 1999, appointed by the Governor of Tennessee as a Representative for Tennessee on the National Trail of Tears Advisory Committee, Chairman of the Board for Moccasin Bend Hospital, Executive Administrative Assistant with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Bill was a member of Red Bank Baptist Church. He enjoyed going out to eat and spending time with his granddaughter, Caty who is now a senior at Georgia Tech. Bill enjoyed growing roses, fishing, watching baseball especially the Atlanta Braves and spending time with his beloved dog Molly.
He was preceded in death by his daughter, Cindy McAfee, and a step-grandson, Ian Majoras.
Bill is survived by his wife, Janice McAfee; granddaughter, Caty Clark McAfee; step-children, Maureen Morrison and husband Jim, Kathleen Collins and husband Tim and Kevin McGregor and wife Jan; 15 step grandchildren and 1 step great grandchild;
The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 pm on Monday, September 14, and 1 to 2 pm on Tuesday at the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home.
A Celebration of Bill’s life will follow at 2 pm on Tuesday at the funeral home chapel with Dr. Fred Steelman officiating.
Burial will be private in the family cemetery in Calhoun, GA.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made in Bill’s name to American Heart Association , 519 East 4th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37403 or American Cancer Society , 6221 Shallowford Road, Suite 102, Chattanooga, TN 37421.
Arrangements are by the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson.