CBC's Ray Wilkinson: A True Pioneer, Leader and Legend
Farm broadcaster's contributions to industry vast and varied, just like the man himself
Where do you start when remembering the many wonderful facets of Ray Wilkinson's life? You could begin with his television broadcasting career, where he gained fame by anchoring the daily farm news reports on WRAL-TV and radio for 31 years. Or his visionary role in the development of the Tobacco Radio Network, which grew into a multi-state radio network that provided stations with not only stories, but advertising revenue. Or perhaps, it's as simple as recalling your favorite Cecil and Leonard joke, told in Ray's unique fashion, that endeared him to countless people both in, and outside North Carolina.
Wherever you start, your bound to end with feelings of admiration, respect, fondness, and perhaps even a touch of wonder for Ray Wilkinson, the person, and what he accomplished in his lifetime which came to an end on December 4, 2004.
Born in Chicago, Illinois on April 14, 1925, Wilkinson came to North Carolina in 1948, moving to Rocky Mount where he was program director for WFMA and WCEC. It was during this period where Ray began telling jokes about two country bumpkins, Cecil and Leonard, a practice that helped fuel his legacy in conjunction to his many contributions to the broadcasting industry.
However, when it came to agribusiness news, Ray was all business. In 1963, he came to Capitol Broadcasting Company to produce farm news for both radio and television.
He produced the first World Tobacco Teleconference in 1991 and the 1989 Corn Classic. He also produced market development radio and television reports from Europe, Asia, Africa, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. On occasion, he would even travel with the Secretary of Agriculture.
Ray was inducted into the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Hall of Fame on November 14, 1996 having been recognized for his service to the farmers and agribusiness community of the Southeast for more than 45 years.
He is survived by his wife Emmy Lou Wilkinson, and sons Joe Wilkinson and Ray Wilkinson III.
Ray Wilkinson Pictorial History
POSTED: December 6, 2004