Remembering Longtime Chattanooga Broadcaster Roy Morris

Tuesday, July 26, 2022 - by Earl Freudenberg
The Roy Morris Laugh and Live Show
The Roy Morris Laugh and Live Show

Chattanooga broadcaster Roy Morris died Jan. 6, 2006, but he left us many memories of his lengthy radio and TV career.  I first met Roy during a WRCB TV live March of Dimes telethon at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium.  The telethon ran on the weekend for 20 hours and Morris was there all the time.  The station brought in recording artists and movie stars who assisted Morris with the fundraiser.  He introduced me as one of the WDOD country gentlemen as I presented him an envelope of contributions from our listeners. 

Roy Morris and I would enjoy many lunches together while he was WDOD general manager in the late 70’s.  He often talked about his friendships with Jim Nabors, Kay Starr, several of the Bonanza stars and country entertainers, including the Willis Brothers who came to the WRGP studio for live shows in the early days of the Chattanooga station.

TV Anchor David Carroll wrote about Roy Morris:  

“Roy could do it all.  He was a decorated World War II veteran, wounded twice in battle, and was a Purple Heart recipient.  While recovering from his injuries, he and two other servicemen put together an act to entertain other wounded soldiers in hospitals.”

David Carroll works for the same television station as Morris only several decades later.

Roy Morris was a native of Nashville but after the Army, re-located to Asheville, N.C., and began his long broadcasting career.  He moved to Chattanooga in 1950 getting a job at WAGC with Harry Thornton.  Morris said Thornton enjoyed on air pranks and set his copy on fire several times while he was reading a newscast. 

Morris was popular on Chattanooga radio before breaking into TV.  Those stations include WAGC, WDOD and WAPO.  WDOD Radio co-founder Earl Winger said, “We recognized Roy Morris’ talent right off and hired him.”  Winger said, “Roy’s Laugh and Live Show originated from our large studio in the Hamilton National Bank Building with a live audience and was sponsored by Westinghouse. It was very popular.”

Morris was very community minded.  In addition of the March of Dimes he was a charter member of the Chattanooga Police and Fire Department’s Forgotten Child fund.  Morris served as master of ceremonies of the Cotton Ball and Junior Miss Pageant and was a board member of the Chattanooga Little Theater. 

During our lunches,  Morris talked about his daily variety program every morning at 9:00 on WRGP TV right after the Today Show.  Morris said he’d broadcast from the top of the McCallie Avenue studio making it look like he was in the Warner Park Rose Garden across the street.  He even took his show on the road with live remote telecasts from the Pan-O-ram Club on Lookout Mountain.  

Barbara Malloy was a frequent singer on the program.  Malloy remembered singing Mel Torme’s Christmas Song backed up by organist O.J. Bailey, another regular on Roy’s morning program. 

Morris enjoyed talking about his days on Bulletin, a program he described as “ahead of its time.”  Guests included sports director Don Fischer, Joan Barry and radio executive Luke Wilson.  Their discussions could be controversial. 

Morris recalled the day President Kennedy was assassinated. He said, “When handed the AP story I couldn’t believe it, I was the first to break the news to Chattanooga on live TV.”  That was Nov. 22, 1963. 

When Morris left Channel 3 he went to work for Bahakel Communications managing several of the company’s stations including WCCB TV in Charlotte, N.C., and WDOD AM and FM in Chattanooga.

In the early 80’s a group of doctors recognized his talents and hired him to run the “Listeners Network” a cluster of stations from Vermont to California. 

After retirement from radio, he and his wife Margaret of nearly 60 years returned to Chattanooga.  Morris broadcast part time on WDOD before his passing.  During that time he re-connected with former Chattanooga broadcaster Larry Johnson and the two shared a few memories of Johnson’s days in Chattanooga on first WDOD and then WDXB.  Johnson left Chattanooga for Chicago but remained friends with Morris. 

Roy Morris shared the same birthday (March 9th) as another broadcast Legend, Luther Masingill.  He jokingly said, “Luther and I were born on the same day in different Tennessee towns but ended up working in the same city just a few miles apart. Who knows - we might be related.”   Roy worked for WRGP TV 3 and Luther was on WDEF TV 12 at about the same time.

In later years he asked his close friend the late Rev. Gene Coleman to baptize him.  Roy said he "believed in Jesus Christ but never had the baptism experience.” Coleman preached Morris’ funeral in January, 2006. 

I couldn’t begin to write about all of Roy Morris’ accomplishments and contributions to radio and television and his involvement in the Chattanooga community.  As David Carroll said, “He did it all.”   I do treasure the many luncheon memories at the Southern Restaurant in Red Bank and our daily coffee breaks at the Waffle House on Signal Mountain Road.

Roy Morris in the late  1970s
Roy Morris in the late 1970s

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