Michael McDougald

30 January, 193117 December, 2021
Obituary of Michael McDougald
Michael Hall McDougald, a native Georgian, passed away peacefully after an extended illness on December 17, surrounded by his family. He was born January 30, 1931, in Statesboro, Georgia, the son of the late Walter Edwin McDougald and Isabel Hall McDougald. He was predeceased by brothers Donald Outland and William Worth McDougald and half-brothers John Horace and Walter Edwin McDougald. He attended Elementary and High School in Statesboro, played football four years, was Editor of the school newspaper, was named in his senior year as the school’s Most Outstanding Student. He entered Emory University in 1948, graduating in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Radio and Television. During his four-year college career, he was employed by Cox Broadcasting at WSB-AM/FM Radio and WSB-Television. He served on the Emory Student Council, was a member of Di Gamma Kappa National Radio Fraternity, Sigma Delta Chi National Journalism fraternity, and as Associate Editor of the Emory Wheel newspaper. He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity. He enjoyed one of Emory’s unique and rare ‘opportunities,’ that of portraying “Dooley,” Emory’s famed skeleton mascot, and overseeing Dooley’s Frolics. He appeared on early television as the famed skeleton. During the Korean War, he planned to become a naval officer, but a mix-up of papers in Washington interrupted that plan, and he instead entered the United States Army. He was graduated from the Army’s Counter-Intelligence School with a Top-Secret clearance. He spent over a year in Europe, at the height of the Cold War, headquartered in Stuttgart and Frankfurt, and traveled throughout Germany as a high-level courier. Leaving the military in 1954, he entered graduate school at the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, where he did early work in their Peabody Awards program. Before completing a master’s degree, he returned to WSB to resume his pre-war job as “Morning Man” on WSB AM & FM. He handled national farm and agricultural coverage for the station, traveling the nation and broadcasting news back to Atlanta and often to the NBC radio network. The morning programs he hosted on WSB Radio were Atlanta’s highest-rated radio shows (Arbitron). He is cited in several books in a major project to “remove the rust from radio,” an idea coined by the late Elmo Ellis of Atlanta radio fame. Ellis served as his mentor, and their friendship continued throughout Ellis’ lifetime. One of his career highlights came when in 1954, he was one of the last radio announcers ever heard on WSB from the old Biltmore Hotel studios. The following morning, he became the first person to broadcast from the newly built White Columns home of WSB Radio and Television. His agricultural activities on WSB brought in a number of major awards and provided opportunities to interview world political and agricultural leaders. In 1957, he resigned to enter business for himself and became a founding partner of WCHK (and later WCHK-FM) in Canton, Georgia. This fledgling effort brought the first-ever local radio to Canton, Woodstock, and Cherokee County. The station met with unique success, much of which is recorded in a book, The Glory Days of WCHK, Georgia’s Good Neighbor. After three successful years, he moved to Columbus, Georgia, to command a much larger operation, WGBA Radio. In 1961, an opportunity to acquire a major stock purchase developed in Gadsden, Alabama. He became partners with one of Georgia’s legendary broadcast-cable-publishing figures Charles Smithgall, Sr. of Gainesville. With WAAX-570 (AM) and WQEN (Q104) FM, in 17 years, they took a small daytime radio station operation. They developed two of the largest stations in Alabama that commanded top ratings in Birmingham, Huntsville, Anniston, and Gadsden. In 1977, he would sell his shares to his partner and purchase WRGA and WRGA-FM in Rome. Working with his wife Leeta, they transformed WRGA-FM into WQTU (Q102) and developed both stations into primary rating status. Under their leadership, these stations made notable broadcasting history, winning eight Radio Station of the Year awards, three Abe Lincoln Awards, a NAB Crystal award, and two Marconi Awards considered one of the two highest national awards given in Radio and Television Broadcasting. Upon their presentation in ceremonies in Los Angles, it was noted that one broadcasting company operation winning two Marconi’s is extremely rare---and a first for Georgia radio stations. He served two terms on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Broadcasters. As Chairman of America’s Small Market Committee, McDougald had oversight of some 6,000 of America’s smaller stations. He was a Past President of the Georgia Association of Broadcasters and past Board Member of both Georgia and Alabama Broadcasters Associations. He was named Broadcast-Citizen of the Year in Georgia and Broadcaster of the Year in Alabama. In 2000, the McDougalds sold their Rome broadcast interests. They continued their promotional and marketing expertise with Advertising Dynamics, Inc., a full-service regional advertising agency, marketing, and publishing company founded by his wife, Leeta. During the first years of activity in Rome, he became a partner in a radio operation in Danville, Virginia (WVOV, the Voice of Virginia). After three years, that radio station was sold. Recognizing the need for better communications options in the Northwest Georgia area, he originated and developed Northwest Georgia’s first-ever digital mobile telephone operations, under the name McDougald Communications, which he grew and operated for ten years before it was ultimately sold to Nextel. His company gave the area its first digital mobile telephone and two-way radio service---a forerunner of Cellular operations which would soon come to the Rome area. In addition, he provided the mountain top space for the first BellSouth Cellular tower ever constructed in northwest Georgia. He was always interested in the military and America’s defense (though no longer in the military). He twice served as a civilian advisor to the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA, and served on the Advisory Council to the 3rd Army command headquarters at Fort McPherson, Atlanta. He was an instrument-rated licensed pilot with nearly 1,000 flight hours. On three occasions, he observed Naval carrier flight operations in the Gulf out of Pensacola aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington as a guest of the Commander Naval Aviation. As a Red Cross Chairman of Volunteers for the state of Alabama, he often, in his plane, provided follow-up flight operations over the disaster, hurricane, or tornado devastated areas in the southeast to assist in evaluation and cleanup operations undertaken by Red Cross chapters and state emergency officials. He was employed in radio at WWNS/WMCD, Statesboro; WRFC, Athens; WGBA, Columbus; WSB-AM-FM-TV, Atlanta. In addition, he has been involved in the ownership of WCHK, Canton (GA); WAAX/WQEN-Q104, Gadsden (AL); WVOV, Danville (VA), and owned WRGA/WQTU, Rome (GA); and translator operations W262CD, Rome. Two different states have inducted him into their Broadcasting Hall of Fame---the GAB at the University of Georgia and the ABA in Birmingham. Meanwhile, the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in Atlanta inducted him in November 2009. He was named a Trustee of the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in 2008. He was an Advisor to The Georgia Radio News Network out of WGST in Atlanta, a news-net serving over 125 stations across Georgia. Appointed by Georgia’s Governor, he served two four-year terms as Chairman of the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission, which operates Georgia Public Broadcasting, and eight years as President of the Foundation for Public Broadcasting of Georgia, Inc. In 2010 he was named Chairman of Georgia Public Broadcasting and served with GPB’s president as GPB’s representative to the National Association of Public Television Stations (APTS). GPB’s footprint across Georgia includes nine television stations, 17 radio stations, and a vast satellite and internet distribution of GPB produced educational programs utilized in hundreds of schools, colleges, universities, and special educational applications. Georgia’s public broadcasting organization ranks third behind only New York and California in the nation. In 2008, he was honored by the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications by his induction in its first-ever class as a Fellow into the Grady Fellowship. In 2014, he was honored by Rotary International District 6910 (North Georgia) Rotary Clubs as a recipient of the Lee Arrendale Vocational Excellence Award, highlighting sharing of his vocational knowledge with other generations. In civic activities, he served as Chairman of the Floyd County Hospital Authority, Chairman of the Battey Foundation of the Floyd Medical Center, President of Rome, GA Rotary and Gadsden, AL Rotary Clubs; A Rotary Paul Harris Fellow plus 1, Founding Chairman of Westminster Christian School and Chairman of Corporate Boys’ Clubs of Gadsden, Alabama; President of the National Alumni Association of Emory University; member and past Vice Chairman of the Emory University Board of Visitors; Chairman of United Way of Rome; Member Board of Governors Rome Area History Museum; served on the Southeastern U.S. Council of American Red Cross and Member of the National Rules Committee of American Red Cross in Washington. He served as the State of Alabama Chairman of Volunteers. He has served since 1985 as a Member of the Board of Directors of SunTrust Bank of Northwest Georgia. He was Chairman of the Audit Committee of the bank. He and his wife have been credited with formulating the long-running fall festival, Heritage Holidays. He is a recipient of the Heart of Community award. Mr. McDougald is a member of the First United Methodist Church of Rome. He was a frequent contributor of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, especially Georgia Backroads, a frequent public speaker, and has authored a book entitled “Passing Parade.” He served as Audio-Visual advisor to the publication of Historic Rural Churches of Georgia and the GPB series Saving Grace. Survivors include his wife, Leeta Minton, whom he married in 1977. Children Michael Gregory (Deborah) McDougald, Nashville, TN, Elizabeth Ann McDougald of Greenville, NC, John Christopher (Angela) Camp, Rome, GA, and Andrea Camp (Paul) Burley, Charlotte, NC. Grandchildren Michael Gregory McDougald Jr., Stephen Thomas (Morgan)McDougald, Timothy Hall (Joanna) McDougald, Rebekah Ann (Jonathan) Murnion, Abigail Victoria McDougald, and Jonathan Michael McDougald, Jacob Nathaniel McDougald, Matthew Jeremiah McDougald, and Hannah Grace McDougald all of Tennessee. Olivia Christine Camp, Roswell, GA, and John Carter Camp, Barksdale, LA. Paul Strom (Trace) Burley III, William McClain (Mac) Burley, and John Michael Burley of Charlotte, NC. Three great-grandchildren also survive him. A funeral service will be conducted on Wednesday, December 22 at 1:30pm at First United Methodist Church of Rome. The family will receive friends from 11:30am until 1pm. The internment will follow at Myrtle Hill Cemetery. In lieu of flowers the family respectfully requests memorial contributions to be made to Rome First United Methodist Church Memorial Fund or to the Rome History Museum. Daniel's Funeral Home has charge of the funeral arrangements.

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