When Luther Ran For Mayor

Thursday, July 7, 2022 - by Earl Freudenberg
Luther the politician
Luther the politician

Luther Masingill worked at WDEF radio for over 70 years and no other broadcaster can make that claim.  His first program was New Year's Eve, 1940.  Luther didn’t retire but left the station one morning in early October, 2014 a very sick man.  After a short hospitalization, He died a few days later on Oct. 20. 

One event he liked to talk about over lunch was his run for mayor in 1951.  From his collection of clippings, Luther gave me several articles about his mayoral campaign.   A Chattanooga Times cartoon on Feb. 1, 1951 said, “I’ll promise everything, I’ll run on my cracked record.”  

Luther said it should have been obvious he was having fun but his listeners took him seriously.  Some of his promises: “to get every old maid a husband, build a 12-lane bridge across the Tennessee River, six lanes to enter Broad Street and six lanes to enter Market Street, dig a five-lane canyon through Missionary Ridge and give everyone a free load of dirt, buy a large lot that utility companies could dig to their hearts' content, do away with the $5 city sticker and all parking meters and reduce the price of haircuts for balding men.”

Businesses issued “Vote for Luther” buttons.   Luther even appeared at schools and civic clubs where mock elections were held.

He was asked where he’ll get the money, Luther’s response, “I'll worry about that when I’m elected mayor."

The incumbent mayor, Hugh Wasson, going along with the joke, sent Luther $2.01 for his campaign fund. Luther himself used his own press and printed political cards. 

News Free Press writer J.B. Collins wrote on Feb. 6, 1951, “Luther Masingill, popular young radio announcer, isn’t serious about his candidacy for mayor in the coming city primary but he’s having more fun with his frivolous campaign than all the serious candidates combined.”

J.B. went on to write, "If you want anything, just call Luther, You probably will never get it, but he’ll promise it to you."

Luther told Mr. Collins, “If there is any money left I will pave the driveway of everyone in the city.”

 

In early March, Luther told his listeners, “The fun is over, let’s get serious”.

 

On March 5 Luther bought a full page ad in the New Free Press that said “there are four legally qualified candidates for the office of mayor; it’s your duty as a citizen to vote for one.”

 

Time magazine wrote, “In Chattanooga, Tennessee after his playful radio campaign for mayor drew more support than he’d bargained for, Disc-Jockey Luther Masingill ran a full page ad announcing that he was not a candidate, urging his supporters to pick one of the men who are. 

 

Luther received dozens of awards and was inducted into both the National and Tennessee Radio Hall of Fames.  He was known for finding lost pets and helping burned out families.

 

If Luther had been alive he’d turned 100 last March.  Chattanooga morning radio hasn’t been the same since his death.   


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