From left to right we see Ray Wilkinson, CBC VP and President of Ag News, WRAL News anchor/reporter John Hudson and WRAL reporter Fred Taylor. The picture was taken in Studio A on September 28, 1989. The occasion was a farewell breakfast for John Hudson, AKA “Bubba,” as he returned to his native state of Oklahoma to work at KJRH-TV in Tulsa.
John was one of the memorable news anchors at WRAL, although he only worked at the Big 5 from 1983-1989. His wit was as sharp as spurs on a cowboy boot and served up with a slight hint of an Oklahoman “bubba” drawl. He could deliver a humorous zinger with a straight face that would cause his co-anchor and studio crew to double over with laughter. Meanwhile, John would continue on as if nothing had happened. Here are a couple examples.
John was a newsman who covered all the bases. He could produce, write, and anchor a newscast – solo, if necessary. Name the shift; he would work it. Name the special project – anchor the Raleigh Christmas parade or a telethon, he was ready to go.
In 1983, WRAL News anchor Charlie Gaddy requested to step down as the 11PM news anchor after the 6:00PM newscast had expanded to one hour. Hudson was hired to take on the 11PM anchor duties. He and Adele Arakawa gelled immediately as an anchor team. John would eventually move dayside to anchor the revamped “Morning” newscast and co-anchor “Live at Noon” with Denece Boyer. Once again, John and his co-anchors were a hit. Whatever the time of day, viewers found and liked John. No doubt news consultants would love to bottle whatever magical potion of charisma John possessed.
SLIDESHOW: John “Bubba” Hudson, WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter, 1983-1989
The “Morning” newscast was low-key in comparison to today. Ray Wilkinson, farm anchor/reporter, brought a folksy sense to the show and John played right into the home-spun flavor. Meteorologist Greg Fishel brought his puns. The recipe for mischief was high.
The newsroom was relatively desolate at 6:30 in the morning. John produced, wrote, back-timed and anchored the news segment – solo. Jay Jennings remembers the time he arrived in the newsroom earlier than usual. John was always looking for a unique angle to deliver information to viewers. He spied Jay and put him on the spot for a quick report on the current weather conditions. This was a perfect example of John’s playful news philosophy “hey, if you’re in; you’re on…” That even applied to the janitor who was cleaning the news room and found himself on television exchanging pleasantries as he emptied the trash next to the anchor desk.
One autumn morning provided extra time to be filled at the end of the newscast. John was ready, not with news copy –but with small pumpkins – perfect for a pumpkin chunkin’ contest between John and Greg. Watch the action here: http://history.capitolbroadcasting.com/media-assets/pumpkin-hoops-on-the-morning-newscast-with-john-hudson-and-greg-fishel/
The mention of John’s name with ol’ WRALers instantly brings a smile and then a tale. As the producer of “Live at Noon,” Kevin Shand worked closely with John. Off the top of his head, here are some of Kevin’s memories.
“On move-in day at NCSU, we sent John over to the campus to report on the under-classmen moving all their worldly possessions into their dorm. John was ‘live’ and demonstrated genuine reporter involvement; he actually helped students haul sofas and TVs from their U-hauls up several flights of stairs.” John was a “roll up your sleeves” kind of guy. He wasn’t one for just standing by.
“And then there was the time when John cooked an Italian feast with Jim Valvano. The recipe came straight from a Valvano family recipe book. The cooking started on “Live at Noon” but wasn’t ready ‘til about 4:30 that afternoon. The night-side production and news crew dined in style that night. Valvano cooked a ton of lasagna & sausages with green peppers. We showed highlights the next day on the Noon newscast.”
Kevin also remembers John trading quips and holding his own with top comedians including Jerry Seinfeld, Gilbert Gottfried and Yakov “what a country” Smirnoff. He also interviewed Waylon Jennings and Jessie Colter when they were in Durham for Waylon’s one man show. There are more stories, but too numerous to list them all.
John returned to his native state of Oklahoma at the end of September 1989 to anchor news at KJRH in Tulsa. It is fitting the John should work at a station with his initials embedded in the call letters; John Robert Hudson.
On June 22, 1994 the tragic news of John passing away while working the morning shift at KJRH (NBC) hit the newsroom at WRAL. According to his obituary, John collapsed at 5:20 AM, 40 minutes before he was to go on the air to anchor the morning newscast. He died of a massive coronary. According to Bill Donahue, vice president and general manager of the station, “CPR was done. EMSA was called immediately. They worked on him and took him to St. John Medical Center. To the best of our knowledge, at no time did he recover (consciousness).”
John was married to Debe and had two young daughters at the time of his passing, Heather and Sara Elizabeth. It comes as no surprise that John was very active in his church, First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow.
John Hudson. One of the good guys who could deservedly wear a white cowboy hat. Thanks for the memories, Bubba.
Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.