Doug Smith: Bos Johnson leaves a legacy of integrity, honesty

7 Dec

FSP moderator:  While this column has a local flavor, historian Doug Smith takes us on a journey to a time when honesty and integrity were virtuous parts of journalism.  I think you’ll enjoy this piece and the photo gallery.

doug smith

Dec. 07, 2014 @ 12:01 AM

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I remember television. I was born in 1955, the first generation growing up with television, Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Cartoon. I grew up with fuzzy, black-and-white images, the test pattern, “This just in” and “Film at 11.” They really did develop “film” for the 11 o’clock news. And, they had Bos Johnson.

When Bos started on WSAZ, I was a kid, bored by the news, but not by Mr. Cartoon. I grew up watching Jule Huffman. But Bos meant the news and I didn’t care. I ate ice cream while Dad watched, and I heard that familiar voice say, “This is Bos Johnson, from Huntington. Good night.”

mr. cartoon 1 mr. cartoon 2captain 2captain 1

When I was 8, one story touched me. I watched, stunned, as we heard our President was dead; as a little boy tried to be brave while his daddy’s body passed; as millions said a tearful goodbye. And again, that familiar voice,

“This is Bos Johnson, from Huntington. Good night.”

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Then there were reports from Da Nang, Saigon, and Hanoi. Boys little older than me were going to fight in mud and heat, halfway round the world in Vietnam. They were coming back hurt, broken, or not at all. Dad was glued to the reports on the war. I remember asking “Are we really in a war?” but I can’t remember Dad’s answer. But I realized that soon I would be old enough to go off with them. And I started to watch the news with him. Amid all this, I heard that familiar voice:

“This is Bos Johnson, from Huntington. Good night. ”

denang 1 denang 2

There came that awful day for all of Huntington, when the plane crashed, killing our Marshall football team, our friends and our innocence. A wound opened in all of us. At the end of that day, for once, that familiar voice failed him.

That night, Bos could not say the words. It was OK, Bos; we didn’t have words either. The broadcast day just ended.

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In my senior year Watergate was the news. Our familiar voice asked the first question in the last press conference for Richard Nixon: “Mr. President, will you resign?” A week later President Nixon did just that. Soon afterward, I joined the Navy and left Huntington. I heard, for nearly the last time, “This is Bos Johnson, from Huntington. Good night.”

Two years later, while I was half a world away, Bos Johnson retired from WSAZ.

watergate 1 watergate 2

I came home again and was glad to see Bos, along with his wife Dottie, briskly debating the issues of the day in a different format. A more weathered Bos, but still that same familiar voice that narrated so much of my life was there one more time.

And now, sadly, he is gone.

For decades of honest reporting, the integrity you brought to a new industry, and setting the bar for quality reporting in our small corner of Almost Heaven, thank you.

So, from all of us here in the Huntington viewing area, back to you, Bos Johnson, reporting from Heaven, good night.

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Doug Smith joined the Navy in Huntington, WV, and served aboard the Nuclear Fast Attack Submarine USS Gato, SSN 615,
and as an Instructor at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut, where he achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer.
He also served as a tour guide and docent at the Submarine Force Library and Museum.  He is an avid student of history, and writes on subjects touching military and political history of the United States.
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