Eyewitness News Brad Byrd joins his fellow colleagues Shelley Kirk and Wayne Hart to remember their friend Hal Wolford and his legacy from ABC25.
BB: Welcome to Indepth: Tonight we take a backroads trip to heaven. We are talking about a reporter, a storyteller, a leader. But he was more than the sum of these parts. He was a newsman and great father. Hal Wolford left us today. He passing away. He was 89. Joining me tonight are two people who worked with Hal. My colleagues and friends Shelley kirk and Wayne Hart. My it was a different world back then. We talk about character in this profession that we love. One of them was Hal Wolford, describe him your take Shelley of this man.
SK: Oh my goodness, I want to say he was larger than life. But he didn’t really cause when you first met him he was very unassuming, very humble. But he was soo funny, he was sharp as a whip. Very smart. Knew everyone from the mayor, the governor he could talk to anybody. He was the type of person who knew that the janitor probably was more interesting and had better stories than the CEO.
BB: And he was usually absolute right. Wayne, you’ve seen soo many… and small towns on those weather maps over the years. But you’ve learned a thing a two about the make-up of our Tri-State area because of Hal.
WH: That’s right, many of these small communities, if it wasn’t for Hal you wouldn’t hear about them unless it was severe weather. You were tracking a storm to say Richland city or Rapid … that’s the only time these towns would ever get mentioned. Hal would go into these small communities which in many cases were very historic and told the stories of the people that lived there. I know I got here in 93 and got to work with him what a good 6,7 years. It was always interesting to find out what was Hal working on today. We knew that when he came back into the newsroom he was gonna have a great story of some kind and you’d be you would be anxious to watch it. 5’oclock news is where we normally ran his pieces.
BB: There’s that unmistakable smile right there and you talk about going out and remember these were reports that aired every day. That gives you 100’s upon 100’s of stories that this man covered. But he’s almost like a kid going out to play and hunt. Then he comes back and it almost like hey he says hey guess what I found today. I want to share right now, you probably remember this one specific this isn’t the whole report. But Hal found a few folks in western Kentucky and a nest of bumblebees. Watch very quickly.
Video clip: Bumblebee fights started years ago when uncle ….. had 15 children. The family was so poor they couldn’t afford toys. So Uncle .. too them out to the field and let them fight bumblebees.
BB: These are real people, but he found them, and I often ask him where did you get some of this stuff?
SK: Well you know I had the distinct honor and luck of sitting next to him in the newsroom. The old newsroom. I would hear him on the phone talking to people. he just had a way, you know he knew how to connect to people. He knew how to connect with people. He knew the right people to ask the question of. Who would have the best story? He just knew how to get that. He just brought it out in them.
WH: He could relate to anyone he was genuine.
SK: I also have to tell ya know, you just said like going out and playing my husband was a photographer here. He doesn’t work here anymore but his favorite memory was going out with Hal Wolford because it was so much fun it was like going out and playing.
BB: We cannot forget Hal was a bonafide, before he started doing backroads in the late 80’s he was a bonafide newsman and journalist. He started his career at WTVW back in the late ’50s. He worked here at WEHT here on Marwood Drive for most of his career but during that time he covered major stories. He was a leader, he was news director at times and covered all types of stories. It always amazes me you know if we were live at an event he would just walk up to me sometime and pint something at that was staring me right in the face. So many times stuff that we might miss in the heat of it all, Hal would pick it up, that how sharp he was.
SK: He would always encourage. he would be a great person to give you pointers on who to contact for a story you’re working on cause he knew everyone. He would help you, guide you. he didn’t hold anything back. He was very magnanimous in that way. I heard Randall Parmley today say that when Hal Wolford complimented you on a story you know you did something right.
BB: He was very unassuming a fantastic people person, but he was also a great father and his beloved wife DoeDoe as many people know her. She is still with us pour prayers and thoughts are with her. Hal had a passion he loved what he was doing. He would say I’m getting paid to do this. Its something he absolutely adored and he was a musician too.
WH: That’s a good point and even after he retired he would email me every few months with his take on local media and what we’re doing. He was so engaged, it so much a part of his life.
SK: His letters to the editor at the Courier.
BB: He would keep in touch and he was in a generation where, and this happened to me shortly after he retired. The knock on the door like on a Saturday morning. It was Hal. He grew up in a time when you didn’t call or text somebody, hey is anybody home, I think I might come over. Is it okay? He just knocked on the door and the old line is got company. That was Hal. He loved people and he loved reporting on people. He never did want to show anybody up. These folks here that we just saw in western Kentucky with those bumblebees, I bet that absolutely went over with them in such a wonderful way.
SK: Well he jumped right in there with them.
BB: oh yes! He was one of those. We were so lucky to be associated with them. Our thoughts again ad prayers are with the family. Thank for talking about Hal. Hal, we really love you. Well be right back you’re watching eyewitness news at 9.
(This story was originally published on February 24, 2020)