Farewell to a legendary radio broadcaster

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Mike Roberts came to Atmore back in the late 1950s to work as an announcer and sportscaster at WATM. This would be the beginning of his outstanding broadcasting career. All the Little League and high school teams fell in love with his broadcasting voice as he called play by play from our local ball parks.

The Missouri native left here two years later for a radio station in south Florida. His career continued to ascend and climaxed when he became the radio voice of the University of New Mexico Lobos football and basketball teams.

The talented and very likeable broadcaster spent over 40 years behind the mike at this major institution, and became a broadcasting legend in his beloved state of New Mexico.

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Mike passed away last week at the age of 83. His daughter, Becky, a horse and animal enthusiast, informed us all on Facebook of his passing. Becky, who was born in Atmore, always spoke about how much she and Mike, and his entire family, enjoyed the friendship of all of us here.

His funeral is scheduled for Mon., Sept. 26. It will be conducted at the NNM playing field to accommodate the expected huge turnout.

So on behalf of my cohorts Sam Ford, Jimmy Cruise, Jean Strength and Sam Hill we bid a fond farewell to our friend from years gone by.

I received a nice memo from Bobby Mays the other day informing us of the passing of two outstanding former Auburn football players. Renowned running back Tommy Lorino, age 79, and Zeke Smith, age 79, passed away a couple of months ago.

As a result of Smiths’ play, Auburn’s top defensive lineman each year is awarded the “Zeke Smith Award.”

Bobby, a former pleasant school teaching associate of mine, was in college at the plains during the time these “All Americans” performed on the gridiron.

I am sure all of our Auburn fans appreciate the contributions of these two talented players. I also would like to thank Bobby for forwarding this information to us.

Taking a look at some news from 1970, the old L&N Depot was dismantled to make way for parking near the city hall. After Amtrak came on the scene, Atmore erected a modern mini depot, which is still standing today.

Another interesting story from 1970 was the celebration of Will Adams’ 120th birthday. Born in 1850, Mr. Adams was entertained by hundreds, including Mayor Tom Byrne who presented him with a plaque recognizing him as one of the oldest living residents in the USA. The kind gentleman told of his working days with W.T. Smith Lumber Co., Swift-Hunter Lumber Co. and Carney Mill Co.

In other 1970 news, three local cotton ginning companies announced the names of farmers who brought in “first bales of cotton” that year.

A.D. Sanders of Bratt, Fla., grew his first bale for Atmore Milling and Elevator Company. Claude Peacock produced the first bale for Atmore Truckers and Mrs. J.R.Crowley and her farm manager Johnny Dread furnish the initial bale for Frank Currie Gin.

Atmore Airport erected a beacon light near the end of the landing strip to help pilots in nighttime flying. The airport also received a grant to expand the runway from 3,850 feet to 5000 feet. It was the second time the runway was expanded. Vanity Fair in its heyday had the runway expanded in the 1950s to accommodate heavy air flights in relative to their operation.

A brand new “kitchen device” was introduced to the public that year. It was the “microwave oven.” Folks flocked to the Alabama Power Co. office to see this device demonstrated. James Norris, chief appliance salesman, treated everyone there with a fast cooked hotdog. Everyone was amazed that this sandwich could be cooked in just a few seconds. This appliance sold at a high price initially, but it only took a couple of years for the price to become more affordable.

Four local high school students, Clint Smith, David Chapman, Mark McKissack and Jim Johnson, were selected to attend “Boys State” at the convention in Birmingham.

Betty Kemp Farrar of Canoe was selected Miss 1970 Escambia Maid of Cotton.

Ernest Ward High School head football coach Joe Latham was elected spokesman for north Florida District One Coaches association. He joined other statewide coaches in suggesting and voting on rules for Florida’s high school varsity football teams.

Atmore’s Little League “Major League’ coaches and managers were: Bank of Atmore- Gene Akins and Bobby Middleton; Lions Club-Roger Dixon and Bill McMurray; First National Bank-Tom Bradberry and M.L. Ledkins; Rotary Club-William Gorum, Maxwell Haley, Wesley long and Mickey Kemmer.

Each week, we like to recognize prominent Facebook posters. This week we salute Bonnie Latino and Murray Johnson. Not only do these two supply us with interesting posts, but they also offer posts uplifting our community.

Next week, we will salute other well-known Facebook posters.

More next week.