HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – “WHNT this is Channel 19 Huntsville. This is Channel 19’s Morning Folks, a public service potpourri of events on the calendar from various places across the north Alabama area. Now, here’s your host, Grady Reeves. And a very pleasant good morning. I hope it’s a marvelous day for you, wherever you are.”
That’s how most of us remember WHNT News 19’s Grady Reeves. He was on the air at WHNT for 28 years.
Steve Johnson remembers the same things you do.
“But, I also remember Grady taking me fishing here in Guntersville. We always went with someone who was a very good fisherman. We used their boat, and their gear. We went to their favorite fishing holes. And you know what – they loved it,” said Johnson.
Grady’s north Alabama fame actually began back in the 1950’s when he did radio from his glass booth atop Huntsville’s Holiday House Restaurant. Grady started out at WHNT News 19 in 1963 doing news and then sports.
“Believe me when I tell you, fans noticed when Grady showed up at an event,” said Johnson.
“Grady had a gift for gab. I mean that in a good way,” said Tom Kennamer, a WHNT alumnus. “He could talk to anybody.”
Kennamer worked with Grady from 1968 until 1981.
“When I first started out, before I started doing the 10 o’clock sports, we’d go talk to a football coach, a basketball coach,” Kennamer said. “He knew everybody, and he’d talk to the players, the parents. I mean it was amazing. He was a rock star when you went out with him.”
In 1965, Grady’s reputation grew when he began hosting Morning Folks.
“Thunder storms, that’s the weather for today. Linda? What’s your name?” Reeves said.
Linda Duncan worked with Grady doing weather, news and sports for Morning Folks for seven years.
“I think about a story teller,” Duncan said. “He could go someplace, a school or a nursing home. Meet some person, talk to them 30 seconds. Come back, get on the show, and tell the most marvelous story. Stretching the truth a little bit, but it was always the truth.”
There are dozens of photos of Grady with kids, with senior citizens and with people all across the Tennessee Valley.
“Dad just had this charisma. There’s not a day goes by I don’t have somebody come up to me and say, ‘I knew your dad’, or ‘let me tell you about this’,” said Robert Reeves, Grady’s son. “Course, and I guess, it’s quite a compliment to be called Grady so often, and I know we do look alike.”
Robert didn’t look like his dad when they started working together in 1980 on Morning Folks. Robert had seen Grady grow from a radio broadcaster to a fixture in the community to something of a north Alabama legend.
He knows his dad almost did it all in the news and sports business.
“He could go to Talladega, Steve, when you and I couldn’t get an interview,” Robert said. “They’d go Grady, what do you need? It was just that kind of friendship.”
The photos of Grady are all a little similar – a smiling man attending parades or getting a smooch from an admirer or sharing a moment as he always did at the MDA Telethon. However, the photos don’t show everything about a guy who was famous well before equality made it to Alabama.
“I had a lady tell me, she was from Courtland, Ala. She said I want you to know about your dad. You probably don’t know about this, but when I was a child, me and two of my friends were sitting outside this little store, and it was extremely hot in July, and your dad pulled up and he walked over and said, ‘what are you doing out here?’ And we said, ‘well, we can’t go inside. We wanted to get some ice cream. But we can’t go inside’, and your dad walked inside, and a few minutes later he came out and he had four ice cream cones, and he sat down with us outside and ate those ice cream cones. Now all of those children were black, but it didn’t matter to dad,” Robert said.
People mattered to Grady. Viewers knew that.
“That’s all our time for today. I don’t want to go,” Grady said.
Actually, Grady loved going most anywhere in our coverage area, and folks loved it when he did.
“And he would announce where he was going, what café or restaurant where he’d be going,” Kennamer said. “Oh, they have the best post roast or whatever, and well, when he got there, they’d have pot roast waiting on him.”
Everyone wanted to see Grady. The reason for that is not hard to figure out.
“The first word that comes to mind is kindness. I think that’s about as far as you have to go,” Duncan said. “If you’re a kind person, people are going to remember you and people are going to feel good about you. To me that’s a great legacy.”
Just think of it, as Grady Reeves’ legacy.