Saturday, October 1, 2011

At the Greensboro NC massacre, 1979 ...

I worked for Bob Brown's radio station WKZL in Winston-Salem/NC for about six months at the end of the 1970's.  I was on the air on Saturday, 3 November 1979, when gunfire erupted between members of the KKK, the American Nazi Party, the Communist Workers Party and local African-Americans, who were being recruited into the CWP in an effort to unionize tobacco company workers.

It was a very bad day in what was then called The Triad (Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point).

My studio was on the lower level of a two-story building, with large plate glass windows facing onto the  gravel parking lot at the back of the building.  The upper level was occupied by the AM station, WAAA/980kHz, that Brown had recently sold to a young AA woman, Mutter Evans, for just over one million dollars, making her the youngest AA woman in radio ownership in the US.

My regular Saturday airshift was from 12N-6PM and I had to do hourly newscasts, brief and format relevant.  The newswire (AP, as I remember) was upstairs in the WAAA area, so I had to go up there regularly to check for news and weather info.

It was early afternoon when, as I checked the wire, that I discovered the bulletin of the shootings just a few miles away.  It took a second for the news to sink in, that even in 1979, groups like these would use violence as they did to suppress American civil rights. I though that that was all over and done with.

Mutter was in her office and I ran there to let her know what had just happened. To her credit, Mutter stayed there and never called the local police for protection.  As it turned out, that was the best move she could have made.  Later investigation showed that the local police had known of the incident in advance.