The first interview Tom Suiter ever did as a paid sports journalist was with legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden. The last one he ever did as a member of WRAL-TV was with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“I might be the only one who can say that,” Suiter said humbly.
As a WRAL sports reporter and anchor for more than four decades, Suiter has made an impact on coaches, players, students and viewers that cannot be quantified. For all his contributions, he was inducted Monday, June 23, 2014, into the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
In 1971, Ray Reeve joined the NCAB Hall of Fame as part of the second -ever class of inductees. That same year, the long-time WRAL-TV and Tobacco Sports Network sports broadcaster who helped grow the popularity of ACC sports, was joined in the business by Suiter. To this day, Suiter has a desk in the WRAL sports office, decorated with Reeve’s oft-used typewriter.
Suiter was hired at WRAL by Sen. Jesse Helms – also a NCAB Hall of Famer – as a reporter and later took over the 6 p.m. sports anchor role in 1981. He said he still has the offer letter from Helms at his house.
“As bad as I was at first, I don’t know why they kept me,” Suiter joked. “The only thing I knew about TV was how to turn it on.”
The Football Friday and Extra Effort franchises that highlight the exploits of high school athletes on and off the playing field began with Suiter, with the help of Bob Holliday and Jay Jennings. More than three decades later, Suiter calls his coverage of high school sports the most rewarding part of a long and storied career.
“I had such a good experience playing high school sports. High school sports rescued me,” said Suiter, a Rocky Mount native who attended Christ School in Arden. “Even now, when kids go back to visit their high schools, the first thing they do is see their coach. I felt like there was a need and we should highlight these kids who work so hard every day.”
In 2008, Suiter stepped away from his full-time duties at WRAL, but continues his work on Football Friday and Extra Effort.
Suiter was elected to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2011. He has also been named the winner of the annual Media Representative of the Year by the NCHSAA and was honored by the Nashville/Midsouth Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with a place in the Silver Circle. He has been nominated for 17 regional Emmy’s, winning two, and was named the NC Sportscaster of the year in 1990 by the National Sportscasters & Sportswriters Association.
“Tom has led by example, not only in sports, but in the news department,” said WRAL News Director Rick Gall. “No one cares more about accuracy and fairness. No one works harder. No one strives for excellence more than Tom.”
Mark Prak, a Raleigh attorney with expertise in broadcasting issues, will join Suiter into this year’s Hall of Fame class. Prak, who has long-represented the NCAB, works with Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, L.L.P.
In 43 years with WRAL, Suiter covered 37 ACC basketball tournaments, 25 Final Four’s and countless other events that helped grow the sports broadcast product in the Triangle to what it is today.
“Being part of a sports department is like being part of a team,” Suiter said. “Some of the people in this Hall of Fame are amazing. I am honored to be a part of it.”
Thanks to WRALSportsFan.com’s Aaron Schoonmaker for this capcom story & to WRALSportsFan.com, WRAL-TV’s Kelly Riner, WRAL-TV’s Jay Jennings & WRAL-TV’s Debra Morgan for these capcom photos.