From board boy to Buffalo legend, former Buff State professor honored at ceremony

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From board boy to Buffalo legend, former Buff State professor honored at ceremony

Tom McCray (top center) was inducted into the Association's Hall of Fame Thursday night.

Tom McCray (top center) was inducted into the Association's Hall of Fame Thursday night.

Gregory Garrett/The Record

Tom McCray (top center) was inducted into the Association's Hall of Fame Thursday night.

Gregory Garrett/The Record

Gregory Garrett/The Record

Tom McCray (top center) was inducted into the Association's Hall of Fame Thursday night.

Gregory Garrett, Reporter

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Bright lights filled the room, TV cameras present as photographers captured guests as they walked across the red carpet, entering the WNED/WBFO studio.

This was the scene Thursday evening as the doors to the Buffalo’s Broadcasters Hall of Fame reopened, adding four more of Buffalo’s biggest journalists to a room already filled with historical broadcasters.

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Association honored former SUNY Buffalo State professor Tom McCray for his involvement on Buffalo airwaves since 1972. McCray is well known for his distinctive voice and working for many radio stations including, WGR, WKBW, and WYSL.

McCray was a professor in the communication department for 35 years, until retiring in 2015. His teaching launched the careers of many well know Western New York personalities, including former VH-1 President Tom Calderone.

McCray also lent his unique voice to Tops Market, Mavis Discount Tires and other business.

He ended his acceptance speech by showcasing that distinguish voice by serenading the crowd with song.

The Buffalo Broadcasters Association hosted the event, honoring hall of fame inductees Don Paul, Larry Norton, Susan Hunt, Steve Zappia, McCray and posthumously, Nolan Johannes.

A video presentation was put together for each inductee, including clips of their accomplishments and contributions to Buffalo broadcasting. Colleagues and students also chimed in with some thoughtful words for the inductees.

The late Nolan Johannes was recognized as a pioneer for his work in Buffalo broadcast, notably WKBW-TV’s Dialing for Dollars in 1964.

In 1978, Johannes helped create AM Buffalo before leaving for Pennsylvania in 1982.

Steve Zappia was in attendance as the Association honored him for a career that spanned over four decades, 33 of those years spent in his hometown of Buffalo at WKBW.

Zappia is widely considered a legend of Buffalo broadcasting. During his acceptance speech, the 86-year-old showed he still has what it takes to capture an audience.

Susan Hunt, a Buffalo native, started her career at WGR radio. After working her way to morning news co-anchor and sports reporter, Hunt went on to explore other media outlets.

She has worked for many high profile networks including ABC, HBO, FOX, PBS, and ESPN. Hunt was the first female play-by-play announcer for ABC, and the first female reporter to enter an NFL locker room, which happen to be the Buffalo Bills.

When asked if she was nervous knowing she was the first woman to do such a thing, she said she didn’t realize she was.

“I wasn’t 100 percent sure that I was going to be the first woman in a locker room. Leading up to it, that information was leaked to me I believe to try to scare me,” Hunt said, speaking about the members of the NFL. “The player that I interviewed didn’t even have a towel on. I think they were trying to intimidate me and see how well I could handle the situation.”

Hunt didn’t limit herself to just sports. She worked all over the country in various fields, working her way to the White House, where she interviewed then-president Ronald Reagan, which she described as “impressive.”

“It was very exciting, intimidating and impressive. The President was jovial, warm and surprisingly down to earth. He had a very engaging smile that made you feel at ease” Hunt said.

Hunt wasn’t the only Buffalo native to be honored Thursday night. 97 Rock’s Larry Norton joined the Hall of Fame after 40 years on Buffalo’s air waves.

Norton played big roles in Buffalo communities, notably his work with the Make-a-Wish foundation, where he helped raise nearly $3 million.

“I could have gone to bigger cities” Norton said in response to a question about his hometown love. “But my family and my commitment to Buffalo kept me here.”

After entertaining Buffalo for 40 years, Norton said what he will miss most is laughing:

“I literally laughed every morning with my co-workers. Literally laughed out loud all the time. I will miss that the most.”

While some remained in their hometown, others relocate in an attempt to build a legacy. That is what Meteorologist Don Paul did in 1984 when he moved to Buffalo.

The New Jersey native is most known for his work with WIVB-TV, serving as Channel 4’s weather man for 28 years. After retiring, he began working part time with WKBW-TV.

During his acceptance speech, Paul said he wanted to be remembered as someone who did good work with passion.

His 30-year career has been recognized and highly regarded by his colleagues. WKBW-TV Anchor Katie Morse gave thoughts on Paul, who she said she always admired.

“To have a career like him would be incredible,” Morse said. “I admire all of the inductees, each in their own way. As a journalist in Western New York, I feel lucky to be working in a market with such a rich broadcasting history, and to be in the company of so many amazing and talented people.”

Time Warner Cable News Producer Zeneta Everhart reminisced about seeing Don Paul as a child.

“I knew I wanted to be a journalist my whole life because I watched people like him. I’ve been watching him since I was nine years old,” Everhart said.

“Don is a great friend of mine. We worked together for years. We always gave mutual support, and I’m so proud of him,” said 2006 Inductee Rich Newberg.

“I am so proud of everyone because I know the sacrifice that is required to achieve this. It takes 100 percent every day, you can never let your guard down.” Newberg said. “It can be stressful on your family, but it is also a joyful opportunity. You are a truth seeker, and you are here to serve the public.”

Thursday night was another example of the Broadcasters Association’s commitment to bringing Buffalo’s media members together, and recognizing those who has sacrificed much in the name of radio and television broadcast.

“It is very important to preserve Buffalo broadcasting history, and for us to connect as a community,” Morse said, who is also a Broadcaster board member. “We may all work for different mediums, but we all share the same goal.”

The Association continues to showcase Buffalo’s involvement in the world of mass media. The Association has helped the city prove that it can be a destination for a long career in journalism.

 

Gregory Garrett is a member of the inaugural class of mentees for the Buffalo Broadcaster’s Association mentorship program.

 

email: staff.record@outlook.com

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