Twin County Hall of Fame to Induct WRAL Sports Legend Tom Suiter

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Tom Suiter
Former WRAL-TV Sports Anchor Tom Suiter will be inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame on Nov 14.

Former WRAL-TV Sports Anchor Tom Suiter will be inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame this fall.   The Triangle sports broadcasting legend will join a group of nine other inductees in being honored as notable natives of Edgecombe and Nash counties. 

A native of Rocky Mount, Suiter worked on WRAL-TV’s sports desk for 37 years before officially retiring in December 2008.  He comes back each season to anchor Football Friday, bringing viewers the scores, highlights and excitement from high school football games.  Suiter also created WRAL’s Extra Effort Award, given to area high school scholar athletes for their achievements both on and off the field.

WRAL-TV Documentary Photographer Jay Jennings worked alongside Suiter on Football Friday when the program first launched.

“Before Football Friday, Tom and I covered high school football games together,” said Jennings.  “He’ll never let me forget the time we missed someone returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown at East Wake.”

Jennings and Suiter worked together from Jennings’ first days at WRAL-TV.

“When I arrived in March 1980, I was the third member of our sports team along with Sports Director Rich Brenner and Weekend Sports Anchor Tom Suiter,” said Jennings.  “In those early days, I had the pleasure of working side-by-side with Tom just about every day.  Together we covered ACC football, basketball and baseball, NASCAR, PGA golf, swimming, track, high school sports, youth sports as well as just about every kind of feature story you can think of.  I’ve seen Tom shoot skeet.  I was with him when he played some goofy game called ‘Blow Ball’ where you used a leaf blower.”  

Jennings remembered the early days of Football Friday.

“Before cell phones, we used two-way radios and walkie talkies to communicate on Friday nights,” he said.  “Crews would call Tom on the radio and try to describe their best highlights so he could write his script.  Because it was over the two-way, every crew could hear every transmission.  Some of my funniest memories of Football Friday are of a frustrated Tom trying to figure out what in the world folks were talking about.”

Jennings went on to work in WRAL’s documentary unit, among his many other roles at WRAL-TV, but he still holds his days with Suiter dear.

“When I look back on my days here at the Big 5, I’ve had the honor to work with some of the true greats in broadcasting,” said Jennings.  “Tom Suiter is certainly at the top of that list.  But better than that, I’m honored to call him my friend.”

WRAL-TV Sports Anchor Jeff Gravley also shared high praise for Suiter and the integral part he played in Gravley’s career.

“How often do you get to learn a craft from a Hall of Famer?” said Gravley.  “I have been incredibly fortunate to have Tom as a mentor. I grew up watching him and to get to work alongside Tom is an honor.”

Gravley continued, “Early in my career, he challenged me to sit on the set and just practice. He would then critique my work in a very constructive and honest way. Tom has done that with so many people. Even today, we talk a lot in the office about broadcasting and sports in general. Quite often our conversations lead to laughter and lots of it! If there is a Hall of Fame that has anything to do with broadcasting, Tom should be in it.”

Suiter has received many awards previous to this latest honor.  He won 17 Emmy nominations and numerous Associated Press and United Press awards.  In 1990, he was recognized as the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year and last year was inducted into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

The Twin County induction banquet will take place on Nov. 14 at Nash Community College.  Find out more details here on the Twin County Hall of Fame website.

Flying The Extra Mile
Suiter also established the Extra Effort Award at WRAL-TV, to honor high school scholar-athletes.  WRAL-TV Documentary Jay Jennings shared memories of working with Suiter in the early days of the awards program:

The early days of the Extra Effort Award were very different than what you see today.  We would fly in Sky 5 and land at the football field during a school-wide pep rally.  Let’s just say Tom doesn’t fly well.  Once we were on the way to Warren County High in the days before GPS, and he asked pilot Mike Allen to land because he wasn’t feeling well.  After Mike and I located the school and came back to pick up Tom, there was one problem.  We couldn’t find him.  A local farm family apparently came out of to see what all the ruckus was in the field next to their house.  To their surprise, Tom Suiter from WRAL was standing there.

At one Extra Effort Award presentation in Bunn, Tom challenged the recipient to a free throw shooting contest in front of a jam-packed gym.  The Suit Man won the contest and the crowd went crazy.

Find out more about WRAL’s Extra Effort Award and Football Friday here.

Thanks to WRAL.com for this capcom photo.

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