Heavner: Welcome, President Spellings

Let’s welcome President Spellings, our new university system president, and Margaret, our new neighbor in the Southern Part of Heaven.

Margaret Spellings

Margaret Spellings. (Photo by Blake Hodge)

This neighbor thing is important to every mission.  A single parent whose children are grown, she arrives with very few local connections.  It’s not just her job that’s tough. Public figures are challenged in making new friends with no agenda.  Let’s let her know that, in our neighborhood, she’s a welcome new neighbor.  That’s who we are.

She’s moved into the biggest house on the hill with the biggest job in the state, the most important and the toughest in our North Carolina public life.  North Carolina today is different and better than the rest of the south because our University is those things. She’s now its chief steward.

She now must shepherd UNC through times of galloping change, roiling in a tsunami of new technologies, the anger of old grudges and the ideology of inexperienced board governance that has yet to find its way.

Her unabashedly Republican leadership puts her politics out of sync in our village where 83% of registered voters are Democrat or Independent. It is, though, likely aligned the state’s voter majority.

Protesters have demonstrated, calling for her to be fired before she takes her job.  Yet, experience tells us that past performance and applicant’s promises are unreliable predictors of what emerges when the applicant is the incumbent.

Passionate student demonstrators are well intentioned in their protests.  At this point, they are misguided.

It was distressing to hear their student leader declare on WCHL that it doesn’t matter what she does in the job, “She will never be comfortable,” she promised, “We will always ask for her dismissal. And that’s that.”  That wince-worthy promise stirred comparisons to Mitch McConnell before President Obama had ever signed in.

Students come here to learn.  Someday, this young lady will learn that there are better ways.  The day may come when civil disobedience is appropriate.  Not yet.

There is an immutable propensity toward reciprocity in human relationships.  People tend to deal with others as they believe they are being dealt with.

It can be overcome and our new president is no stranger to political controversy or being the target of it.  Yet, trying to fire her now because of something she might do simply makes it harder for anyone involved to talk to others when creative and useful dialogues are our best path to progress.

Until our new president shows herself to be intractably intransigent in refusal to embrace the rights and to understand the sensibilities of those she calls her customers, let’s help her understand even as we cheer her success.

The governors of UNC were egregiously awful in the way they managed the presidential transition they instigated.  Some of its most prominent members, embarrassed by the experience, say they understand that now.  They are still learning governance. Ms. Spellings, meanwhile, is not responsible for the sins of the fathers who hired her.

For now, she and we should live the values of southern manners.  The big yellow house has big, wide front porches for howdies and a back porch perfect for sweet tea and good conversation.  It’s a place to for visiting, finding common ground.  It’s a good place for explaining and persuading; pondering, listening and learning.

That may fail.  But, our chances of getting the best come from expecting the best.  That also does not include a mindset to lie back, wait and see what she’s got.  In some ways, that’s more deadly than outright opposition.

She is smart, has a reputation for outworking everyone around her and doing so with a sense of humor.  We are more likely to advance agreement if we pursue it while finding joy in our common humanity and frailty.

This place is about learning.  She has said that her first job is to go to all the schools, to visit with the people of the state, to listen and learn.

If we are true to the roots we claim, we, too, will be liberal in pursuit of new ideas.  If the university functions at its best, our philosophies and policies are best derived from research and reason.

In Texas, the big jobs in education and public service went to Republicans.  As they say out there, just as here, the lady didn’t just fall off a turnip truck.  She found success where there was opportunity for advancement.  Now, her bread is buttered here.

And for sure, there’s no way that this board will ever chase their choice away.  So, she has a lot of latitude to do things her way. Let’s help her find it.

What’s the prescription, dear Tar Heels?  Bake a pie, take a casserole. Pursue trust. And Margaret–May we call you Margaret?–we welcome you to the Southern Part of Heaven.  You will be welcomed here by those who contribute to what makes our town swell and our University great.

We welcome your ideas and know you’ll listen to ours.   You do need to get one thing straight, though, here and now.  Our real barbecue is vastly superior to that stuff you slather over beef out there in wild and wooly Texas and call it that.   Indefensible.

Let’s show you at Crooks.  That will be a public demonstration to celebrate.


New Bidders Vie For WCHL

Editor’s Note: This story corrects an earlier version on this story that was in error in reporting that Bob Woodruff and Jim Heavner were part of VIM Acquisitions, LLC.   It was formed solely by Mr. Holmes.

Multiple offers were put in to buy WCHL and Chapelboro out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, on Thursday.

A court-appointed trustee will review the bids and make a recommendation to a judge on Friday, who is scheduled to approve the recommendation on Tuesday.

WCHL principal owner Jim Heavner said in an e-mail to staff that:

“My goal is clear: to have the best offer we can get from a buyer who will carry on WCHL’s community service and local programming.“

The following statement was released regarding the situation:

VilCom Interactive Media (VIM) has new ownership bidders, including a surprise bid on the eve of its being taken out of Chapter 11 by its current owners, which was planned for yesterday. VIM, part of VilCom, and the owner of WCHL and Chapelboro.com, is one of several entities that was caught up in the Chapter 11 filing of sister company University Directories (UD) last fall.

As part of the unwinding process, University Directories was successfully sold in April, but the litigation with Greg Lindberg, Eli Global and UDX, continues. The Print Shop, another part of the company, was acquired by VilCom partners Jim Heavner and Bob Woodruff last month.

Now, VIM, a sister company under the VilCom umbrella, is being sold. In this case, WCHL owners are both purchasers and sellers.

Several companies had indicated an interest in acquiring VIM. Out of that process, VIM Acquisitions, LLC, a new company was formed by Edward Holmes, a WCHL investor.  Homes had come to an agreement with its trustee, attorney Rett Saslow of Greensboro, for its purchase to keep ownership local and that was to have been submitted to the bankruptcy court.

But, an unanticipated offer came in at the end of the day from Leslie Rudd Living Trust. He was unknown to the sellers and the court. It was comparable to the VIM Acquisitions offer, in that it was better in some respects and not as good in others.

As a result, the bankruptcy administrators, supported by attorneys for UD, recommended each buyer would have 48 hours—until today— to put the bids into a common form, with $100,000 security deposit, and that a bidding contest among the qualified buyers will take place tomorrow in the offices of attorney John Northen, whom Heavner had chosen to represent UD in the bankruptcy filing.

The trustee will submit the winning bid to the judge, who should approve it Tuesday.


Yow’s Friends in Tune

UNC IT nerd-whiz Ken Yow plays a mean bass. You’ve probably heard and seen him behind the specs riffing away at Friday’s on The Front Porch at the Carolina Inn as part of Mick Mixon’s Franklin Street Band.

Franklin St Band

Mick Mixon (drums) and his Franklin Street Band, including Ken’s current performance pose (second from right).

Once in a while, it’s the heart strings that are plucked when we hear the story of old friends, generous spirit and happy endings.

Yow grew up in Randleman, that small town that most would call a pit stop between Greensboro and Asheboro, now with about 4,000 souls.  But Yow and his buddy Jimmy Hayes would call it a great place for a Tom Sawyer childhood.

It’s a place where kids learned to pick and sing.  Ken and Jimmy grew up together and by the age of 15, they were stars in that little firmament, with Jimmy on guitar and Ken on bass, playing and singing rock ‘n’ roll.

Ken Yow

Ken Yow strikes his pose with Jimmy Hayes at the mic.

Ken loved his old Silvertone electric bass, which was the brand Sears put on the Danelectro.   Connoisseurs know the sound and the company is still around.

But, dang it, sweet music doesn’t always make life that way.  In a home break-in, some scoundrel stole it.  Gone.  It was like losing part of Ken’s family.  He missed it mightily.

Ken and Jimmy have stayed with their music.  Now fifty years later, they still gather with another old music making pal, Ron Woodell, to pick and sing, playing some of their own compositions at the Blue Rock, a High Point eatery.

Then, last Tuesday at lunch with Ron, Ken waxed nostalgic about that stolen bass.  He pined for a lost love, still sad that someone swiped it.

After the lunch Ron and Jimmy conspired, searched the Internet and struck vintage gold.  They found the identical model 1967 Silvertone online for sale.  And voila, it was  right down the highway in Winston-Salem!

So, on Wednesday night, when the pals gathered to perform at the Blue Rock, Jimmy and Ron had a surprise.  Ken had his Silvertone!  He was overwhelmed.  But, brushing away the tears, he showed that he can still play that thing and he still loves the brassy 60s sound.  Old timers might associate it with bands like The Ventures.

Over a half century, some things change.  Some stay the same.  Ken’s brunette mop has turned to a thinning gray crew cut.  The Silvertone, though, sounds the same, even better.   Ken is different, because he plays a lot better.  But he still does it with the same knee-buckled pose he was striking as a teen age rocker, easy to see in a picture of then and now.

Beautiful music, great friends, sweet story.


WCHL’s Heavner to Join UNC’s Journalism Hall of Fame

Story originally posted September 15, 2014, 5:12 p.m.

The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication is welcoming WCHL’s owner and CEO Jim Heavner as a “Halls of Fame” inductee.

The N.C. Halls of Fame for Journalism, Advertising and Public Relations ceremony honors “individuals who have made outstanding, career-long contributions to their fields,” according to a press release from UNC.

Inductees must be native North Carolinians, or be identified in some way with the state.

Heavner – who’ll be inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame – started working at WCHL in 1961, and was the force behind moving the music station to the news/talk format.

The station began life in 1953 under the ownership of Sandy McClamroch, who served as Chapel Hill’s mayor throughout the 1960s. By 1978, Heavner was the majority owner.

WCHL operates as a division of VilCom, of which Heaver is owner and CEO.

Heavner is one of eight Halls of Fame inductees to be honored at the Oct. 10 event at the Sheraton Chapel Hill.

Others include UNC Professor Emeritus Harry Amana, the first black journalism professor at the university; and Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball.”

In 1968, Matthews dropped out of the UNC doctoral program in economics after one year to join the Peace Corps.

Tickets for the event are $75, and they’re available through Sept. 26. You can purchase them by calling 919-843-2026.


‘It’s Time To Welcome The Big-Box’

Chapel Hill developer Roger Perry says the Town has to strike while the iron is hot and not miss great tax-growth opportunities with its new development sites.

“Time and time again, we have rejected,” Perry says. “For example, at Obey Creek, we have the ability to bring a large retailer to town, and, to date, the Town has not shown the willingness to accept a 100,000 square foot-plus retailer. But they’ll come; they want to be here very much; they’ll definitely come.”

He says the Town should be welcoming commercial development with open arms, and if it does, the tax burden on it citizens will begin to subside.

Perry made these comments in a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.

Chapel Hill’s tax rates—city, county, and school taxes–support the city schools, free local busses, and social services, at the highest rate in North Carolina. Local government development policies have made Chapel Hill’s taxes on residences the highest percentage in the state, and commercial taxes the lowest. Orange County exports more retail spending to other counties than any county in the region. In a WCHL news special, Jim Heavner interviews Roger Perry, who has recently been more outspoken on those issues.

Perry, a Chapel Hillian, is the President of East West Partners Management Company, and since 1983 East West Partners has developed more residential real estate than any company in North Carolina. That includes Meadowmont, Downing Creek and East 54 here in Chapel Hill. He’s now trying to develop Obey Creek, so he’s a big player. Perry, a UNC graduate has also served as chair of the UNC Board of Trustees, and that is also a topic of the special interview.

***Listen to Part Two***

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


Was Kennedy Shot By Accident?

CHAPEL HILL – Was John Kennedy shot by accident when Oswald was actually aiming at John Connally?

UNC Graduate and novelist James Reston, Jr. told WCHL’s Jim Heavner that, in the process of writing a book about Connally, he came across evidence that has persuaded him that it was hatred of Connally that drove Oswald to shoot on November 22, 1963.

Reston has now published another book, The Accidental Victim, which appeared in more detail and he explains it here for Jim Heavner in an interview that aired earlier this year on WCHL.

**Listen Below to the Full Interview**



CH/Carrboro Business HoF Inaugural Class To Be Inducted Wed.

CHAPEL HILL – The Chamber of Commerce is recognizing 12 individuals who have shaped our local business economy by honoring them Wednesday as the inaugural class of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Business Hall of Fame.

The special recognition was designated for individuals with a record of excellence in business management and entrepreneurship, as well as having a positive impact on the community during their careers.

The inaugural class of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Business Hall of Fame includes:

WCHL’s own Jim Heavner

Stein, Bill, and Jesse Basnight Sr. of S.h. Basnight & Sons, INC.

Michael Barefoot of Southern Season

Mildred Council of Mama Dip’s

Orville Camplbell of The Chapel Hill News

Ted and Edward Danziger of Restraunteurs

Mickey Ewell of Chapel Hill Restaurant Group

R.B. and Jenny Fitch of Fitch Creations

Mac Fitch of Fitch Lumber and Hardware

George Wattes Hill, Sr. of Central Carolina Bank

Frank Kenan of Kenan Oil and Kenan Transport

Mel Rashkis of Mel Rashkis & Associates


To honor the inaugural class, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce is hosting a black tie gala at the Carolina Inn, with the induction ceremony is set for 8:00 p.m.


The Rains, The Floods, The Trees And Us

In Chapel Hill, the rain’s a pain when it falls mainly all in one weekend.

Because our aptly named municipality is, sure enough, mostly on a hill, one might wonder why we have so many troubles with storms here. We do Pogo proud because we can find the culprit is in the mirror. Some of it we are changing; some, we would not have any other way.

All that water flows downhill where we once let folks pave and build. And on everywhere on the hill, we love our trees.

The intersection where Mallette meets Franklin Street, now the Chipotle intersection, but known to old timers as the Fowler’s Food Store intersection, was developed in the forties. We didn’t have many rules about storm water then.  That little swale always flooded.

When Bobby Fowler ran the family grocery, he discovered that kitty litter bags were the best flood “sand bags” that he would stack outside his doors! He was a big extrovert and everyone knew about Bobby and the kitty litter. The floods generally subsided pretty quickly and he would be open in a few hours. That was important because Fowler’s had a legendary walk-in beer cooler.

In the early sixties, the Karras brothers channeled Booker Creek into a culvert beneath what was to be their expanded Eastgate Shopping Center. Flood plains are great for AM radio towers, but not so good for that lovely strip that flooded again Sunday. The culvert overflowed , the water backed up to flood the bases of WCHL’s towers, the station’s signal got stronger but the building became a mess.

The times, they have been changing, but historically, the town allowed building in flood plains that, by last mid-century, enlightenment made controversial but not always prohibited. The Camelot Apartment project on Estes Drive across from University Mall was built in a flood plain and its building permit caused a stir from environmentalists at the time.

But, they went ahead.Camelot floods a lot.

The flooding in that area was exacerbated by the huge impervious surface of University Mall right across the road. The mall itself sits on a site that was once a hill. I lived near there at the time and watched them move that whole doggone hill that had been the site of a dairy.

We always wondered why they could not build a mall on a hill, but the North Hills company wanted it at street level. Bulldozers and backhoes moved that hill for about a year in daily convoys of dirt trucks filled to the brim. Many of us who were here remember its dust storms.

Things progressively changed, as the early lack of awareness and regulations gave way to an emerging realization that it’s not a good idea to build or pave things where it floods.  The rules are tougher and we hate it when they are tough on any of us who want to build something.

We have gotten better at it, but it’s part of the history we preserve.Have you noticed that everything in town is either paved or it’s a tree? Every impervious surface floods and soaks more of the soil that holds the trees.

And oh, my lord, what a love affair between the trees and us. In Chapel Hill’s old neighborhoods, they are called “leafy” for a reason.

We live in a town where tree hugging is a universally celebrated virtue. Of course, the older the tree, the bigger it is, the more we are reverentially, belligerently protective!

Alas, the older and bigger the tree, the more likely it is to fall when we have heavy rains. Trees fall, streets are blocked, power goes out and everyone is a grump except WCHL, which gets all those listeners who flock there in such emergencies.

There are remedies. This would be easy to fix. But, none of us wants to spend the money to put power lines underground. And we sure don’t want to cut those trees.  Unthinkable!

All of us watch the Duke Power tree trimmers with a guarded eye ready to argue with those good guys up in the bucket as the crews “butcher” our favorite trees. How insensitive!

Then, here comes the rains. When the ground is saturated, the trees fall and much of the town is out of power. Then, we call out the Duke Power crews for emergency repairs while we complain about how long it takes them. How slow!

That’s part of the life we live here. And as my departed old buddy Roland Giduz would opine when musing about our lovely local contradictions, “Ain’t it grand!”

Photo by @jdribo, Carrboro


Lampley Said 'See Ya!'

In the early 1970s, I worked for the Atlanta Constitution and heard a sportscaster named Beau Bock do commentaries on the radio and host what might have been the first sports talk show in America.

Bock was very informative and entertaining in his 2-minute daily diatribe and then he actually fielded phone calls and let people give him THEIR opinions on sports stuff. Brilliant, I thought.
A year or so later, I returned to North Carolina as the sports editor of the old Durham Morning Herald. I went to see my old friend Jim Heavner at WCHL, for whom I had been a reporter and correspondent in my days as a UNC student.
“Jim,” I began, “there’s this guy in Atlanta who does sports commentaries and then spends an hour on the air taking phone calls from sports fans who get all over the lousy Atlanta teams. It’s uproarious. You ought to do that on CHL”
Heavner rubbed his chin, as he’s been doing for most of the last 70 years, while in contemplation. Finally, he spoke.
“We’re the flagship station of the Tar Heels and people in Chapel Hill love sports,” he said. “We could do that . . . and I have the perfect person to do it.”
“You do?” I said, beginning to stick out my chest, hoping of course that perfect person was the person who suggested the shows.
“Jim Lampley,” Heavner said.
Lampley was, at the time, a journalism graduate student at Carolina and reporting on games and other sports news for the radio station, then located at the bottom of East Franklin Street across from Eastgate Mall.
“Lamp,” I said, deflated. “Great idea. He would be perfect.”
So, in 19974, Jim Lampley recorded a sports commentary that ran three or four times a day on the station. Being a Univac for sports facts, Lampley’s Sports Notebook was both hilarious and knowledgeable. He also hosted a weekly talk show called Sports Switchboard that was equally successful, with people from all over town calling Lamp to ask him questions and give their own take, mostly on the Tar Heels of Bill Dooley and Dean Smith.
I was busy putting out a daily sports section in Durham when I heard a rumor.

ABC-TV was conducting a national search to hire a couple of college-age sideline reporters to freshen up its football telecasts on Saturday afternoon. Bud Wilkinson, the former Oklahoma Hall of Fame football coach, had been the color commentator for years on ABC and the telecasts had become staid and boring.

Lampley and a young TV reporter from Philadelphia named Don Tollefson beat out hundreds of candidates to win the positions, and the UNC graduate student went from making $80 a week at the local radio station to earning $80,000 a year as ABC’s first sideline reporter. In his debut game , Lampley walked down the docks where the yachts park and party outside of Neyland Stadium in Knoxville before Tennessee games.
The Lampley story went on from there, as Jim called virtually every sporting event for ABC, NBC and CBS in his own hall of fame broadcasting career. He later became the voice of boxing for HBO and now has his own special on the history of the controversial sport. He was one of many national and regional stars (Charles Kuralt, George Hamilton IV, Bob Holiday and Warren Levinson, to name a few) to get their start at the little AM radio station at the bottom of the hill.
Oh, by the way, Heavner called me after Lampley left for ABC job and asked if I wanted to take over Sports Notebook and Sports Switchboard – for I think $10 a week. I said yes, happily, and did both shows through the mid-1980s. In the last two years, I’ve returned to WCHL to resume Sports Notebook.
On my first commentary back in 1975, I ended it with the phrase “See ya.” The station manager at the time complimented me on the Sports Notebook but told me to lose the “See ya”. After my second commentary without the sign-off, Heavner said, “What happened to the “See ya”. I told him what had happened.
“It’s great, it will become your trademark, put it back in,” he said. So back it went and, as you know if you listen at 7:30, 8:30 and other times during the day, it is still there as WCHL celebrates its 60th birthday.
“This is Art Chansky . . . see ya!”


Division 1 Revenue Sports, the Daily Tar Heel, and the Mission of UNC

Kudos to WCHL and Jim Heavner for his thoughtful interview with Bubba Cunningham, the Director of Athletics at UNC.  These athletics scandals have harmed the entire UNC community, so they demand that we ask difficult questions and challenge the often mis-guided assumptions about the role of Division 1 athletics in a great research university. 

Of the many assertions made by Mr. Cunningham, for now I would like to address one, his justifying the limited involvement of revenue sports athletes in the broader life of the university.  He drew an inaccurate analogy between a Daily Tar Heel reporter and an athlete to make his point.  Mr. Cunningham’s error stems from a mis-reading or mis-understanding of the mission of UNC, to advance scholarship, research, and creativity and to teach a diverse community of students. 

A legitimate criticism of Division 1 sports, especially the revenue sports of football and basketball, is that the demands of training, practice, and games make it virtually impossible for many, if not most, to engage in the diverse cultural and social life that is central to a college education. 

Indeed, as the scandals have revealed, the demands on these athletes, sadly, too often make it difficult to engage in the core academic activities as well.  How do the demands on athletes in the revenue sports advance the mission of UNC?  I’d like somebody to explain that to me. 

In stark contrast, the Daily Tar Heel reporter is fully immersed in the mission of the university, even if she or he takes classes only in the morning and works for the Tar Heel from noon until midnight.  The mission of the Daily Tar Heel is to pursue all news of the University; to set the standard for the journalism industry; to serve as a learning laboratory for young journalists, etc. 

Those fortunate enough to work for the Tar Heel develop skills that advance scholarship, research, and creativity.  The same could be said for our students in the arts who can be found at all hours on the stage or in their performance studios. 

I encourage Mr. Cunningham to speak with Don Oeler of the Chapel Hill Philarmonia, Emil Kang of Carolina Performing Arts or Joseph Haj of Playmakers about how their programs advance the mission of the university.

To sustain vibrant cultures and nations, universities are too important and too fragile to engage in ventures that are not strongly aligned with their missions.