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
tnsnowangel - 8:02 AM
0 Votes
It's actually $10 Off $20. :-)

mamac - 5/21/2015 4:09 PM
0 Votes
Well, STUPID PEOPLE are going to be stupid. I have been burglarized 5 times people stealing from me and my family. We work hard for what little crap we have and for a THIEF to come up in my yard and take what he wants to feed his dope habit.Yes, I say if they steal cut there hands off. And if you need to feed your family instead of stealing a loaf of bread why not ASK for it. Cause even if you are going to steal a loaf of bread to feed your family well if you die is it worth going to hell for? Much less being a example to your kids and others..Is that the kind of examples hey we are hungry kids lets go steal a loaf of bread, yep way to teach kids( hmm so is thats what wrong with the world? thank so)And to anybody hurting animals yea throw them under the jail and never let them see day light....It don't look like humans as any Compassion for each other and animals....Im 44 years old and haven't been in trouble with the law and haven't had a speeding ticket like in 23 years . And it isn't hard to be a law biding citizen..

U2ART - 5/21/2015 1:10 PM
0 Votes
Mercedes Benz leaving NJ had nothing to do with taxes. According to M-B President who masterminded the move last December, “Tax incentives mean almost nothing when you’re making a decision for the next 50 years and beyond. They have zero impact on the business case,”......... it was quality of life and a supportive business community that drew the company. http://www.globalatlanta.com/article/27595/ceo-tax-breaks-not-the-clincher-on-mercedes-benzs-atlanta-move/ Consider that M-B just signed L. Hamilton for the next three years for $140 million. This just shows that the tax savings in the move to GA is nothing more than pocket change for M-B and clearly there were bigger reasons for leaving as M-B President has clearly pointed out. So, apparently, Mr. Cannon does not feel NJ offers a good for quality of life or a positive business community. I disagree....I've been to Montvale...nice place...great location....close to Manhattan, close to Catskills and Poconos...lots of great schools and history nearby, including West Point....why do you think my friend Mary decided to move America's #1 Automotive brand nearby to NY? Atlanta is nice, but nothing beats NYC and the surrounding areas. And why would Mr. Cannon want to move out of New Canaan unless he was moving to Greenwich...or perhaps to nearby Bedford where Bruce Willis just bought a home? Perhaps there were some recent bad experiences that MB management needed to flush out and decided that a move was the cleanest solution. They did keep the legal team in case the employees that were not given an opportunity to move realize the move was more of a personal preference for management not to have to deal with old luggage.

eshever - 5/21/2015 11:46 AM
2 Votes
Now you know what a "wackadoo" is and why it might be dangerous to have an animal abuser registry online.

al smith - 5/21/2015 9:28 AM
1 Vote
"The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws." Ayn Rand Now I know some of you that are ranting and raving that WE NEED MORE LAWS probably do not know who Ayn Rand is but you most certainly know that you love mob rule. Mamac here would like to see all "abusers" in jail and of course if you steal a loaf of bread to feed your family you should have your hands cut off.. Me thinks that person needs to move to a country where this actually happens and does not deserve to live in a county where we have justice system.

al smith - 5/21/2015 9:28 AM
2 Votes
"The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws." Ayn Rand Now I know some of you that are ranting and raving that WE NEED MORE LAWS probably do not know who Ayn Rand is but you most certainly know that you love mob rule. Mamac here would like to see all "abusers" in jail and of course if you steal a loaf of bread to feed your family you should have your hands cut off.. Me thinks that person needs to move to a country where this actually happens and does not deserve to live in a county where we have justice system.

al smith - 5/21/2015 9:26 AM
0 Votes
perhaps if they distributed dog food donated by dog food companies and gave free shots people would be able to keep their pets instead of having to give them up.. cheaper and certainly better for the pet that would probably be killed if taken to the "shelter" free spay/ neuter would also help

mamac - 5/20/2015 10:55 PM
0 Votes
The law NEEDS to be TOUGHER . The law needs to be if you are ever convicted of animal abuse anyway shape or form.You should NEVER be allowed to have another pet again for the rest of your life. And the animal abuser should have to restitution to a local animal shelter for a period of 5 years. Our laws are goinng to have to be tougher on alot of issues. Like if you get caght stealing cut one hand off you get caught stealing again cut both hands off. And NO DISABILITY.You do the crime you do the time. USA is going to have to get a lot tougher on all this crime. Cause I bet the courts start doing this and watch the crime die down...Make the LAWS on animal abusers STRONG!!!

eshever - 5/20/2015 10:30 PM
2 Votes
A lot of people worked very hard to remove misdemeanor animal abuse from this bill before it became law. People who hoard animals usually need mental health treatment. They don't need to be on an animal abuser registry. In some places you can be charged with a misdemeanor for very minor things. Some of the people with rescues and shelters that supported this bill could have it come back to bite them. These registries are useless. Gigmaster is right. They are unenforceable. If someone wants a pet, they will get one from somewhere. But they put someone's name on an online registry where wackadoos can find them and harass them. We don't need more vigilante justice. Putting someone on one of these registries can cause someone to lose a job or ruin their life in other ways. It's just a way to shame them. Enforce current laws for animal cruelty and stop trying to control everyone who owns an animal.

gigmaster - 5/20/2015 5:46 PM
2 Votes
What a stupid law. With all the things going on that need attention, this is what Tn. lawmakers waste their time on? How are you going to stop anyone from just collecting stray animals? Are you going to ask for a search warrant to see if a former animal abuser has picked up a cat in the Walmart parking lot? The law is unenforceable, and just plain stupid (and maybe unconstitutional....). Nice going, Tn. You were the laughing stock for the country with the Scopes Monkey Trial and Creationism, now you've got this. Thanks for the comic relief.
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