Wayne Abercrombie, Channel 3's first employee, dies at 84
Channel 3 signed on the air on May 6, 1956 (as WRGP), and since that time, hundreds of dedicated employees have worked to bring you the best possible entertainment and information.
Thursday, we lost employee number 1. Wayne Abercrombie was Channel 3's first employee, and although he was long retired, he will always be part of our family.
Wayne was at the controls when Channel 3 signed on for the very first time. The Alabama native had experience in the relatively new field of local TV, having worked in Indianapolis at WISH-TV.
During Channel 3's first two decades, Wayne was behind the scenes, producing variety shows, directing newscasts, and setting up live remotes from events like the annual 20-hour, star-studded March of Dimes Telerama fundraiser shows from Memorial Auditorium. As producer, Wayne recruited NBC stars like Michael Landon and Leonard Nimoy to headline the event, still fondly remembered by Chattanooga viewers today.
It was Wayne who was in the director's chair in 1963, when the news broke of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Channel 3 (which by then had taken the call letters WRCB) was broadcasting a live talk show. Wayne rushed into the studio, handed the AP wire copy to "Bulletin" host Roy Morris, and nodded his head affirmatively when Morris asked on live TV, "Is this real?"
He had also worked with Morris on a daily variety show in the mid-1960s, featuring a live band, and vocalists like Barbara Molloy. He helped WRCB usher in the color broadcasting era when the station moved into its current studios on Whitehall Road in 1968.
After leaving Channel 3 in the 1970s, Wayne operated the successful Crest Video Production company, and later created Dayton, Tennessee's first and only cable TV station HRMC-TV.
In 2006, on Channel 3's 50th anniversary, he visited the station's original studio on McCallie Avenue, where the old film projector was still in place.
Wayne was proud of his role in putting Channel 3 on the air, and establishing its tradition of emphasizing live programming, and helping charitable causes. Throughout his long, full life, he remained loyal to his old employer, and encouraged us to do good work in the community. In a 2006 interview, he told me, "Channel 3 is still embedded in my heart, and I still watch each day." His most recent appearance on the station was in 2016, on a 60th-anniversary newscast.
It's hard to lose your number one fan, he can never be replaced. In recent years, Wayne established the media ministry of Red Bank Baptist Church, producing the church's TV weekly TV broadcasts. Here is the obituary, with visitation and funeral information:
Charles Wayne Abercrombie, 84, went home to his heavenly father on Wednesday, November 6, 2019.
He was born in Cullman County, Al., and graduated from Hanceville High School as class president.
After studying and working in Alabama, he was hired to help build WISH TV in Indianapolis. In 1956, after moving to Chattanooga, Wayne became the first employee of WRCB Channel 3 television as an engineer and producer. Later in life Wayne operated Crest Video Productions and opened a cable television station HRMC -TV in Dayton, Tn. Wayne ended his working career on staff at Red Bank Baptist Church where he pioneered the church television ministry. Wayne was a member of Red Bank Baptist Church for over 60 years where he was active in Sunday School, Senior Adults and the Orphanage Emanuel project.
Mr. Abercrombie is survived by his wife of 65 years Betty, daughter, Charlotte Mabry (Steve), grandson, Stephen (Rachel) Mabry, granddaughter, Dina Raquel Ware, and three great–grandchildren, Olivia, Andrew and Evan. Wayne was a loving husband, father and “granddad” and will be missed by all who knew him.
The family will receive friends from 1-3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11, at Chattanooga Funeral Home on Highway 153 in Hixson. A celebration of life service will follow at 3 p.m. in the chapel.
Arrangements are under the care of the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson. Please share your thoughts and memories at www.chattanooganorthchapel.com