Remembering Gene Upright, the First Anchor I Ever Worked With

Deposit Photos/WLTX

Gene Upright, a former colleague who spent nearly 60 years in the broadcasting industry passed away last week surrounded by family.

No matter what career field you work in, you’ll find there are some people you’ll never forget. For me, Gene Upright was one of those folks. Gene Upright was one of those people for me. Gene passed away on Thursday morning.

He was 91 years old.

Gene was the first person I met at my first television station. I actually met him before I started working there. When I introduced myself and told him I was at the University of South Carolina studying broadcasting, his eyes lit up. He started telling me a little about his time in television. He was always very supportive of younger people entering the field.

When I worked with him, he was the grandfatherly type in the newsroom. But he was someone who was always level-headed and brought a sense of calmness to the room.

Whenever something went wrong — and in live television, something always goes wrong — he’d get through it and when the newscast was over, he’d lean back in his chair and chuckle, saying, “Show business is my life.”

That calming influence

One of his daughters reached out to me last year and asked if I would make a quick video greeting. She was asking several people who had worked with her father to produce such a video. She was then going to edit them together to play at his 90th birthday.

I immediately knew which story I wanted to tell. My first full-time job in television was as a reporter. It was a job I knew I didn’t want to do longterm, but it was a full-time job that opened up just as I graduated from college.

At one point, I was asked to introduce a feature piece I had put together on the anchor desk sitting next to Gene.

I had taped plenty of pieces before and had been on TV before. But this was going to be the first time I would be live on TV.

That should have made me nervous. Oddly enough, it didn’t. I didn’t think about it all day.

Then came that newscast. In the commercial break before my segment, I had gone to the little makeup table behind the set. I wanted to make sure I was as presentable as I was going to get. Then I came around the set…and saw Gene Upright sitting there at the desk.

That’s when it hit me. I thought to myself, “What in the world am I doing?” I didn’t belong up there next to Gene.

I think he saw my sudden nervousness and gave me that warm smile and said, “Well, howdy, Partner. I’m looking forward to your story!” I got through it because of Gene.

“Howdy, Partner” was one of his favorite greetings. He called everyone “Partner” at some point.

It made you feel special when he did it.

I had the honor of producing his retirement video

When Gene Upright announced in 1999 that he was retiring — after what I recall was 58 years in broadcasting — I knew the station had to do something special. He had worked at that particular station for more than 20 years alone.

So I set up an interview with him and asked him to tell me his story. He talked about growing up in North Carolina, getting into radio and eventually television.

He loved to joke about his early start in radio, claiming that when he was young, his mother told him, “I want to see something getting smaller down the road and I want it to be you.”

Gene talked about the big stories he covered and the stories he thought most changed the world. I then went to work editing that interview. As I recall, it aired in three parts over three nights. The video exists, but it’s on a tape format that’s hard to find a machine to play it. I now have a little extra motivation to find a machine and make myself a digital copy.

I’ve tried to keep Gene’s nurturing nature in mind over the years. I’ve tried to be supportive of young people entering the business. But I know that I haven’t measured up to Gene’s standards in that area.

That gives me a new goal to work on.

Rest in peace, Gene, and thanks for everything.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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