Headline of Station premiere

WDEF-TV - Chattanooga's First Television Station Signs on April 25th, 1954.

The Chattanooga Times and News Free-Press heralded the news that Chattanooga would now have a television station ... WDEF-TV providing local programming as well as network programs from CBS and NBC.

The first broadcast, of course, was merely a test pattern. For at least two weeks, anxious Tennessee Valley households tuned their brand-new television sets into Channel 12, and were greeted by an Indian head with various gradiations of grey, and a voice announcing the coming station, and that this was a test broadcast. You'd have thought that test pattern would win an Emmy.

For the first time since there was TV, local residents wouldn't have to strain to pick up grainy Atlanta stations. It was the talk of the valley.

Viewers from all over the tri-state area wrote in to tell our engineers that they were picking up the signal, and would let them know what the quality was like. Some letters surprised our engineers more than others ... such as the Knoxville lady who was able to pick up our signal using only "rabbit ears".


Television in Chattanooga was now a reality, and things would never be the same.



The first studios were located in the Volunteer Life Insurance Building, and the power output was 105,000 watts.

Local programming would be Drue Smith's House Party, Miller Brothers' Style Show, and Henry C. Geiger's Children's Gospel Hour.

Other local shows included the children's variety show, Mr. Chickaroonie, Luther Masingill, Sports Review by Herschel Nation, Drue Smith's Party Line, the Weather Report by "Big Jim" Hill, world news by Mort Lloyd and Scenic Land News by Hal Seigel.

Network programming would include the Colgate Comedy Hour, Jack Benny, Milton Berle - Bob Hope, I Love Lucy, Red Buttons, Judge for Yourself, Eddie Fisher, Arthur Godfrey and His Friends, and I've Got a Secret.

With WDEF radio since 1941, Luther Masingill joined the staff of WDEF-TV. Luther had vowed to keep up his shenanigans in TV as he had in radio.

A staple of morning radio for over a decade already, Luther would bring his wit and warmth to television. Things like Chickaroonie, Mabel and "Stay in your own lane" were all "Luther-isms".

Luther was a stunt-master in radio. He was a source of diversion and amusement to Chattanoogans who listened to him.

For one radio contest, Luther agreed to serve as yardman and man of all chores around the house of the winner. He admits he didn't work hard.

For another occasion, he was rolled around in a wheelbarrow at the front of a parade by WDEF announcer Ernie Feagans.

And ever-so-often, he just wouldn't even show up at the studio, broadcasting his show from "home", wandering around the rooms listening to the crackling of bacon as Mrs. Mary Masingill cooked, or chatting with younger brother Charles.

One of the first locally-produced shows on WDEF-TV was Point of View. Still on the air, it is one of the longest-running local public affairs programs in the United States.

Other shows such as Drue Smith's House Party and Party Line were popular with viewers, for their innovative style and fresh attitude.


The 1970s brought change to TV news. WDEF was no longer the only television station in town, but it was certainly the leader.

With a team of seasoned broadcasters, and a brand new tool ... videotape ... Channel 12 was able to bring the Tennessee Valley the latest news, accurately and quickly.

Mort Lloyd was in the center of it all.

An unlikely hero in the world of TV, Lloyd was one of the most respected faces (and voices) in broadcast journalism.

The history of WDEF-TV is a rich and colorful one. From important leaders to strange personalities (even a wrestler or two), they have all wandered these halls over the years.

Shock Theatre: mixed horror, comedy & political commentary into late night programming in the 70s
Shock Theatre: mixed horror, comedy &
political commentary into late night
programming in the 70s.

We are proud of our history here at WDEF. It is a big part of Chattanooga's history, too. And we would love to hear about your memories, questions or memorabilia. Just drop us a line at News@wdef.com.


Latest Comments
Comments
CobraDriver - 6:18 AM
0 Votes
What a great school and what a great time all of us from Celebrate Freedom Foundation had visiting the staff and student body from Ridgeland High School. I hope everyone enjoyed watching the flyby's as much as I enjoyed showing them to you!!! Thanks again for such a great day, Vladimir K. CFF Pilot

Rhino - 3/27/2015 5:36 PM
0 Votes
I'm glad they ruled that way. If you commit a crime with a gun in your hand, you take your chances, and he lost.

Here2Opine - 3/27/2015 8:47 AM
0 Votes
Good. Justice for Savannah. Now hopefully the good ole gals in the big house will have grandma running for hours.

ProudAmerican - 3/27/2015 1:14 AM
0 Votes
Amen Teddy. The NAACP is concerned about one thing.....race baiting. Race baiting helps them recruit more members, get more political influence and collect more fees. Blacks need to understand there are consequences to your actions. I especially loved the bogus claims about how blacks are expelled more, go to prison more, etc....there is a very simple reason for that. If there are say 20 robberies in a month, and 19 are done by blacks, then who shows up in jail? Don't fight, rob, do drugs, rape and steal at a rate that is way out of proportion for your share of the population. Blacks make up just 13 percent of the population but are responsible for over 50 percent of violent crime.

Teddy101 - 3/26/2015 11:26 PM
0 Votes
These girls have consequences to their actions. It's ridicuouls to read that eight of them were involved. They are in high school, not elementary. The NAACP wants to give them a slap on the wrist! These girls should be grateful they have free schooling, however they go to school and disrespect each other, ruining it for kids who actually go to learn and not get involved wth the latest drama! They are very luck to be able to attend alternative schools and not made to be home schooled since they want to act like Neanderthals out in public! So yes NAACP let's continue to let them get away with crime so they can continue the foot steps of others. That's why we have so much violence as it is because these kids have NO role models! But we don't want to punish them when deserved! We have had 2 jewelry store robberies, two restaurant robberies, and now a robbery today and a auto store. What does the NAACP have to say about that!? Not to mention the two women who just recently got RAPED!!! Do the crime you pay the time regardless of COLOR !

bt1962 - 3/26/2015 3:21 PM
0 Votes
....and let that be a lesson to you.

halftoo - 3/25/2015 3:01 PM
0 Votes
How about you post the numbers pertaining to the line workers at each plant? When you factor in the huge salarys of the upper echelon, there is no way to tell who makes what.These numbers mean nothing to the average working person.

Radgirl333 - 3/25/2015 8:43 AM
0 Votes
Bravo Kim Thurston, unnamed judge, and Morgan County! Alot of very smart people have at some point in their life made a dumb decision that lands them in a corrections system that is designed for failure. I now have a slight glimmer of hope that there are people within that system who are willing to go against the grain and do what they signed on to do...Rehabilitate and break that chain that results from a loss of ANY opportunity in society to show what a smart person can bring to the table in experience alone!

rwfowler04 - 3/20/2015 1:33 PM
0 Votes
I'll never look at my wife quite the same. :/

nikki - 3/19/2015 2:43 PM
0 Votes
Too freakin funny. Looks awesome though in those lil girl ruffle socks. Haha. That would be perfect for Halloween! Now they should cone out with a Farrell cookie.
Stay Connected with WDEF News 12
What's On TV
2:00PM - 3:00PM
5:00PM - 5:30PM
5:30PM - 6:00PM
6:00PM - 6:30PM
6:30PM - 7:00PM
7:00PM - 7:30PM
7:30PM - 8:00PM

Over The Air Antenna 12.2
Bledsoe   38
Blue Ridge Media  111
Charter 156
Charter-Ten Mile 117
Chickamauga Tele   13
Comcast 212
EPB 162
ETC 198
Optilink (Dalton) 159
Scottsboro 140
Spring City Cable   12
Trenton Tele   14
2:30PM - 5:00PM
5:00PM - 7:00PM
7:00PM - 7:30PM
7:30PM - 8:00PM
8:00PM - 8:30PM
8:30PM - 9:00PM
9:00PM - 11:00PM

WDEF News 12 This Morning can be seen on WDEF News 12, 5-7am and on Bounce TV Chattanooga, 6-8am.

Inergize Digital This site is hosted and managed by Inergize Digital.