For the Record
Remembering Bob Bean, and his 18 years on WBT airwaves
By Robert D. Raiford — Special to the Observer
A Charlotte original passed on Jan. 13 with no more public notice than the obituary page of the Observer.
Robert F. Bean was on the WBT and WBTV announcing staff for 18 years. As such he was a household name around here.
At that time if you had made it to WBT you had arrived to the pinnacle of Carolina broadcasting. A slot on that staff opened rarely. When it did, the many candidates for the job, after they had made the initial cut, were invited to come to Charlotte, at their own expense, to participate in a competitive audition. Few made it. In 1950 Bob Bean was one who did, coming from WBIG in Greensboro. He joined such veterans on the staff as Lee Kirby, Fletcher Austin, Kurt Webster, Clyde McLean, Jim Patterson and, as WBTV expanded, Gil Stamper, Alan Newcomb, Doug Mayes, with Charles Kuralt, a student at UNC Chapel Hill, filling in for vacationing staffers. I am proud to have been on the full time staff.
We worked both radio and television, making station breaks between CBS network programs, reading news and playing phonograph records, and whatever variety programs that were aired.Bob Bean was one of the first WBTV newscasters as well as veteran Lee Kirby. We were among those who worked out of the original studios in the Wilder Building on Tryon Street.
In 1968, Bob Bean left his chosen profession to sell life insurance for Jefferson Standard, owner of WBT and WBTV. He was very successful at that, a top sales leader for several years until he formed his own agency in 1982. He retired in 2004.
Bob Bean never looked back on his years as a broadcaster. That is unusual. Those who get out of the business to pursue other endeavors or have retired somehow remain in the public eye, often called on for their observations related to the business of broadcasting. Bob Bean, by his own choice, never was. When he got off the public airwaves, he stayed out. Never looked back, even though he was one of the originals, always a solid citizen who remained in Charlotte.
I lost track of him over the years until I noticed his obituary, with recent picture, in the Observer. I thought he deserved more than that.
Robert D. (Bob) Raiford is a long-time Charlotte broadcaster who can be heard on the John Boy & Billy Big Show. Email: email@example.com.
Photos courtesy Robert D. Raiford