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
RedBankParent - 3:35 PM
0 Votes
There is a typographical error near the end of the story. I seriously doubt that the Red Bank Police Chief has convictions dating back to 2007. I think the sentence should read: "Vaughan has convictions dating back to 2007."

Here2Opine - 8:37 AM
1 Vote
Does WDEF have anyone actually edit these stories? They appear to be written by a person that never completed the third grade.

csandhollow - 1:04 AM
1 Vote
If the Commissioner had not WASTED money on that "farm" and removed so many properties from the tax rolls maybe we would not be in such bad shape. Put the farm on the open market and sell it. quit throwing money away on "special projects"

NickAndros423 - 8/21/2014 7:19 PM
0 Votes
Good Lord... one of the dumbest things I've ever read. I guess that sentence would have garnered me some kind of punishment at that dump of a school, lol. Is there ever any good news out of our educational system anymore? Wow.

jackieleonard - 8/21/2014 7:52 AM
0 Votes
We feel like peaches was stolen from our fenced-in yard during the night. She was last seen Thursday night 8/14/2014 around 11pm.If you have seen Peaches, please notify me 423-314-1398. My grand daughters have had this pet since she was born. NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

TonyaDuckworth - 8/20/2014 8:54 PM
0 Votes
So sorry my last post posted 3 times but update on my little Katie bug, she can't eat crunchy foods because of her jaw broken but she is eating mushy food by hand and when we go visit with her she wags her tail when she see us so that makes me very very happy. Still can't bring her home yet. :-( but very excited when we get to.

TonyaDuckworth - 8/20/2014 8:20 PM
0 Votes
Thank you for your concerns immickslady, I really appreciate people like yourself. Katie living has been a miracle from God, I give God all the credit.

orangejayhawk - 8/20/2014 8:12 PM
0 Votes
As President of Hamilton County Council of PTAs, I want to thank our partner, United Way Chattanooga, for the Stuff the Bus program. Supplies donated to Stuff the Bus are delivered to the Council's Teacher Supply Depot. The Teacher Supply Depot is the Council's community project and allows teachers to receive free supplies through the Depot's distribution days. Dwight Hunter

TonyaDuckworth - 8/20/2014 8:07 PM
0 Votes
Thank you for your concerns immickslady, I really appreciate people like yourself. Katie living has been a miracle from God, I give God all the credit.

TonyaDuckworth - 8/20/2014 8:04 PM
1 Vote
Thank you for your concerns immickslady, I really appreciate people like yourself. Katie living has been a miracle from God, I give God all the credit.
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