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home : news : e-news August 12, 2022

4/28/2013 7:00:00 AM
Doug Mayes: Legendary Newscaster Still Going Strong At 91
Doug Mayes is still very active at age 91. (Photo by Lincoln Herald Staff)
Doug Mayes is still very active at age 91. 
(Photo by Lincoln Herald Staff)
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Among other honors, Doug was named to the Order of the Long Life Pine
This is one in a series of articles about people, places and things that have helped to shape Lincolnton, Lincoln County and the surrounding areas.  It is our hope that these articles will become a subchapter in the history of our communities.  Some of the people highlighted are either deceased or have moved elsewhere, others are still living here.  Our remembrances of the way things were are a small piece of the fabric of our past.  We hope you enjoy our articles and we invite you to share your own memories—through comments on our stories, stories you might like to tell, pictures you might like to share.  We call the series “Reflections.”

Wayne Howard

Legendary is a word that should be used only sparingly. Many people achieve a degree of fame, but flame is fleeting. Only those whose fame endures long after the acts that made them famous should be called legendary.

How many country musicians can you name who have played the Grand Ole Opry, then had a highly successful career in radio and TV, achieved the top rated position for an evening newscast at one station, then the top rated newscast in the midday at another in a top 25 TV market? We know of only one: Lincoln County resident Doug Mayes.

For 22 years, Doug was the evening news anchor on WBTV, Channel 3. Later, he joined Channel 9, WSOC-TV where he did the midday news. His news programs at both stations were tops in the market in their time period. Called the “dean of TV newscasters in the Carolinas” by the Charlotte Observer, Doug was named to the North Carolina Broadcasters' Hall of Fame.

His career in radio and television was an offspring of his earlier success in the world of country music.

During his senior year in high school in Westmoreland, Tennessee, about 40 miles northeast of Nashville, Doug, then known by his first name, Carl, was studying in the auditorium when stars from the Grand Ole Opry were setting up for a show. Inquiring about the various artists and their instruments, he learned that the bass fiddle player who was supposed to be playing had the flu and was unable to attend. After a conversation with the emcee, David Stone of WSM Radio, it was determined that Carl (Doug) was a bass fiddle player. He was given an audition and played well enough that after his graduation a few weeks later; he was invited to play with Bill Monroe at the Grand Ole Opry. That led to a job with Fiddlin' Arthur Smith (NOT the one from Charlotte) as both a bass fiddler and a country comic.

The group played in North Carolina and on one occasion, Carl asked a receptionist at a Madison, N. C. hotel who was dating another member of the band if she had a friend he might date. She did—and Carl met Ruby Vaughn, who became his sweetheart. She invited him to Thanksgiving dinner with her family in 1940 and in 1941 became his wife.

A morning announcer at WKPT radio in Kingsport, Tennessee, invited the group to start a radio show there. The announcer then decided to teach Doug his trade. On a Sunday afternoon in December 1941, Carl was practicing with AP wire copy the announcer had pulled from the teletype when a news bulletin appeared. It was the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

Carl volunteered for induction into the military. It was during his Navy boot camp that some of his fellow recruits learned his middle name and started calling him 'Ugly Doug.'

Since the US was at war with Germany and Carl (although usually spelled Karl) was a German name, he decided that being called Doug was a good thing. From then on, Carl Mayes was known as Doug Mayes. While in the Navy, he was assigned to a job reading the news as well as other announcing activities.

After the war, Doug used the GI Bill provisions to go to school at High Point College (now called High Point University). He and Ruby already had a son born before he went in the Navy. They lived in a mobile home on property near her family's home in Stokesdale.

Doug then moved closer to home and worked for four years with Nashville radio station WSIX. While visiting his wife's sister in North Carolina, Doug decided to go to Charlotte and put in an application at WBT. Shortly thereafter, he was offered a job. His boss in Nashville offered a raise from $1.25 an hour to $1.30, but Doug decided to leave Nashville for Charlotte.

WBT Radio was the top broadcast station in the area and television was just beginning, but Doug decided the future was in TV. So he became one of six announcers who auditioned to become “Your Esso Reporter” on Channel 3. He got the job! In its first days, the newscast was only ten minutes long. Later it expanded to 15 and eventually to a half hour. Doug was North Carolina's first TV news anchorman and became what many have called “the Walter Cronkite of the Carolinas.”

Cronkite visited Doug at WBTV when he came to Charlotte to address a retail convention. He thanked him for the ratings success that delivered thousands from Mayes' lead-in newscast to Cronkite's CBS Evening News. The WBTV evening news was the top-rated local newscast of all CBS affiliate stations.

After over 22 years as the evening news anchor, Doug decided he needed a rest from the day-to-day grind. He handed over the anchor job and spent much of his later years at Channel 3 reading editorials and unofficially working in community relations. He also hosted a program that put ordinary viewers on TV—with overwhelmingly positive results.

Then in 1982, WSOC-TV offered him a more lucrative position. He hosted “Mid-day with Mayes,” and it became the top rated newscast in its time period.

A 33rd Degree Mason and past Potentate of Oasis Shriners, Doug is also a past president of the South Atlantic Shriners Association. He is a retired member of the International Board of Trustees of Shriners Hospitals for Children. The City of Charlotte named the street where the Oasis Headquarters is located Doug Mayes Place in his honor. Doug was a board member and for 40 years emceed the Carolinas Shrine Bowl football game. He was inducted into the Shrine Bowl Hall of Fame in 2011.

In country music, Doug not only appeared on the Grand Ole Opry with Bill Monroe; he hosted “Carolina Country Style” on WBT Radio, served on the Country Music Association's Board of Directors, and was inducted into the Country Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2002.

Doug was presented North Carolina's highest civilian honor, named to the “Order of the Long Leaf Pine.” He was awarded Life Member status, the highest award given by the Salvation Army Board of Directors. He served for many years on the Communications Committee of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Doug and Ruby moved to Lake Norman 42 years ago. She passed away in 2006. They had been married over 65 years.

Not everyone who becomes famous deserves to be called a legend. Doug Mayes does. Still active at 91, he has come a long way from that log home in Sumner County, Tennessee.

Doug says of his career, “I've been VERY lucky.”

We might add, and very good. Doug Mayes is indeed legendary.

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