Affable, caring, punctual, funny and an outstanding speaking voice – those were just some of the characteristics of my longtime friend and long-ago broadcast colleague, Bob Vernon, who was definitely short-changed. Sadly, Bob died Sunday, (September 30th), at a Denver area hospital. He was only 70. His loving wife, Doris, told me that Bob died of a blood disorder.
Here was a man who loved his craft and handled it so well, working as an on-air radio personality and a versatile voice-over artist. A native of Lima, Ohio, Bob’s career spanned more than 40 years, took him to a number of cities and enabled him to be heard on radio and later seen on television. His radio broadcasting began in Painesville, Ohio and after mastering that operation, Bob had an opportunity to move on to the nearest big city, Cleveland, where he was recruited to be the afternoon air personality on WGAR. It was there that his “pipes” got a good workout in doing a daily, four-hour show and recording spots. It was also during his six-year stint at WGAR that we met, as I worked as his hourly news broadcaster. Bob and I got along well on the air, and we enjoyed each other’s company away from the microphones. We were together about a year when I got an offer from another city and elected to take it.
Moving is the one constant for most on-air broadcasters and, believe me, nobody knew that better than Bob Vernon! But to his and Doris’ credit, they seemed to take the moving in stride. While in Cleveland, Bob received a golden opportunity to become the PM-drive air personality at WNBC Radio in New York. You bet he took it and, for a few years in the mid-70s, a lot of people drove home listening to the man who called himself “Vernon with a V,” who provided plenty of contemporary music and an ample amount of good humor. Perhaps his upbeat disposition served him well in some of his post-New York years. There were several moves and Bob took the time to look at the proverbial big picture. He wondered if he could be successful in radio, why not television? Why not, indeed! Bob had the opportunity to double his pleasure and fun by becoming a TV news anchorman. He did that kind of work in Louisville, Kentucky and eventually found his way to the capital of North Carolina. I understand for some of our readers in the Tarheel State, Bob’s is a local story. The Vernons finally settled down in Raleigh and Bob went to work as the evening anchorman at WRAL Television and later was the lead anchor for the Ten O’clock News on WLFL, Raleigh’s Channel 22. It was there while visiting the Raleigh area and the Vernons that I had a couple of opportunities to see this man’s well-honed television skills.
As someone who had done radio and television early in my career, I knew it was not impossible, but the cross-over is hardly the simplest transition for many on-air people. In addition to his journalistic work, Bob also serviced a lot of voice-over accounts from his in-home studio. How convenient!
In all, Bob and Doris spent 23 years living and working in the Raleigh area and a few years ago the decision was made to move west to be closer to their sons, Chris and Shannon. I have never met Chris and Shannon, but to them and their Mom, Doris, I offer my deepest sympathies on the loss of a real gentleman.
I shall not forget the man on the other side of the radio with the smooth, deep voice who told New Yorkers with his tongue in both cheeks, “This is Vernon with a V…humble, big-city disc jockey.” He’d also on occasion give away pictures while touting the Vernon Building. Of course, it was a joke…as the Vernon Building was in reality the then-RCA Building, the home to his program on which he’d frequently remind listeners that he “gave good radio!”
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Bob Gibson looks back on a half century in the broadcasting industry in which his on-air work included news, sports, business, commercial and promotional voice-over, as well as industrial narration. Bob was an hourlies news correspondent at NBC and ABC Radio in New York and at the Mutual Broadcasting System in Washington during the Watergate era. His news career also included an 18-year stint at WCBS NewsRadio88 in New York, which many industry experts at one time considered the biggest and best all-news radio operation in the country.