I’m doing something a little different with this blog: I’m giving you a choice! If you love to read, please read my thoughts below on “Luther Day.” If you’d rather watch a video, in which I’m saying pretty much these exact words, you may scroll to the bottom, and see the YouTube video of my presentation to the Hamilton County Commission. Either way, I hope you’ll observe the first annual “Luther Day” on Monday March 9, by being an even nicer person than you usually are. Here goes, right after my favorite photo of Luther, from the 1970s: big smile, wide tie and all:
On October 20, 2014, we lost Luther Masingill, at the age of 92. We’ve missed him on WDEF radio and TV, looking for all those lost dogs. He was on the same time, same station since 1940; more than 74 years, interrupted only by his two-year stint in World War II. When you see a list of records that will never be broken, Luther’s longevity should rank at the very top.
Take it from me, or anyone else who works in radio or television. An announcing career is not one where many folks get a gold watch for 25 years of continuous service. Luther was the exception to the rule.
Luther could have taken his show just about anywhere. Big-city radio stations took notice. They said, “Maybe we should hire this Luther fellow do our morning show.” When they saw Luther’s eye-popping ratings, they tracked him down.
After all, this is the guy who made an entire city pull over to the side of the road one morning. As heavy snow began to fall, Luther helpfully advised his listeners to let some air out of their tires to gain more traction. As witnesses would later describe, main arteries like McCallie Avenue came to a standstill as everyone stopped, got out of their car and began deflating their tires. Can you imagine anyone, in any broadcast medium, having that sort of influence today?
Yet despite the offers from New York, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, Luther chose to stay put. His family was here, and he always appreciated WDEF for giving him a radio job at the age of 18, which was beyond his wildest dreams.
In recent years, this humble man started getting some much-deserved recognition. Part of South Broad Street was renamed in his honor, and he was inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame, and the National Radio Hall of Fame. Every day someone thanked him for waking them up, for reuniting them with their pet, or for finding their car keys. Luther knew he was loved, and nothing made him happier than rising bright and early, driving to the studio so he could help brighten someone’s day, one person at a time.
That’s why I made a suggestion at Luther’s memorial service at Engel Stadium. Luther was widely known for his many acts of kindness. In my view, the best way to remember him on his birthday (March 9) each year is quite simple. Let’s act like Luther.
On that date, look for opportunities to make someone’s day. If you see that young mom struggling with a shopping cart, a baby, and several bags of groceries, maybe you can do the heavy lifting for her. How about the man standing on the sidewalk, holding a sign and waving folks into a local business? Odds are he doesn’t get paid much for that, but at least he’s making an honest living. If you have a few extra bucks in your pocket, I’m sure he’d appreciate the help. Have you bought anyone’s lunch lately? March 9th would be a good time to surprise someone. It could be a friend, or even a stranger. Luther enjoyed doing nice things for everyone with whom he came in contact.
Whether it’s a little cash, a pat on the back, a little yard cleanup, some encouraging words, or a surprise gift, I saw Luther do all these things and more. It’s how he connected with people. It’s what made him special. This is how he lived his life every day of the year. He left us with no regrets, no unfinished business.
Luther was blessed to have a long career in the field that he loved, and it made him happy to share his good fortune with others, every day. If Luther could do it 365 days a year, surely we can do it on March 9, 2015 and again on his birthday each year going forward. I can’t think of a better way to honor the memory of this very special man.