Three years after becoming the heavyweight champ, Muhammad Ali paid an impromptu visit to WRAL-TV. Thanks to quick thinking by a young crew member, Ali ended up being interviewed for the late newscast. Dave Scoggins, a 36-year employee of Capitol Broadcasting who now works as a Satellite Senior Systems Engineer at Microspace, had the famous encounter, and recently shared his incredible experience with Capcom:
In 1967, I was a 17-year-old high school student who had been working on the part-time production crew at WRAL-TV for three or four months. By then I had realized that broadcasting was my passion so many Saturdays when I was scheduled in at 9:00 pm to help with the Late News broadcast, I would come in around 6:00 and hang around Engineering and Master Control to learn as much about those operations as I could. I owe a lot to those Engineers and MCOs who tolerated my presence and answered my incessant questions.
One Saturday night I was hanging out in Engineering when the phone rang. The Engineer answered it and then told that there was someone in the lobby who “wanted to be on television” and was bothering the receptionist. He told me to go out there and tell the person that he would have to come back during business hours.
Wanting to be helpful, I went out to the lobby and found five of the largest men I have ever seen. The biggest one stepped forward and introduced himself as Muhammad Ali. He said he was in Raleigh for the evening and had decided he wanted to give us an interview.
After I got over my initial shock, I remembered that Dave Collins was working as the newsman for WRAL-FM. I asked Mr. Ali to wait while I tried to make arrangements to set up the interview and hurried off to ask Dave if he wanted to interview the famous boxer.
It took a while to convince him that I was not kidding but he finally followed me to the lobby and the look on his face when I introduced him to Muhammad Ali was worth the effort.
While Dave talked with Mr. Ali, I got the Engineer to fire up a camera and enlisted the MCO to direct the interview.
By then, the word was getting around the station that Muhammad Ali was in the lobby and everyone was dropping by to meet him. He was gracious and kind to all of us and signed several autographs.
Meanwhile, I lit an area in Studio “A” for a two-person stand-up, strung a couple of mics and set up the camera. Dave Collis led Mr. Ali into the studio and I helped him put his mic on. By then our “director” was in the Control Room and we were ready to roll tape.
I don’t remember many details of the interview but toward the end Mr. Ali was becoming more comfortable with Dave and started sparing with him the way he interacted with Howard Cosell in their many interviews on network TV. Dave chose a segment of the interview tape and we aired it in the Late News broadcast that night. It seems no one knew that Muhammad Ali was in Raleigh or why so we scooped the competition with our impromptu interview.
NOTE: Unfortunately the tape of that interview no longer exists, but the memory of that evening will forever stay with Dave Scoggins.