John White reflects on his time as WALB’s first black anchor

John White: WALB's first black anchor

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - John White says his career at WALB opened a lot of doors for him.

“I came to Channel 10 in late 1970 to get an application for, to become a news reporter,” White recalled.

In 1971, John White was the first black person to get in front of the camera at WALB.

It was a job that almost didn’t happen.

“The news director at the time said to me ‘we don’t hire black people,’” White said.

White tried numerous times, even talking to reporters every time he saw someone out and about.

Eventually, White came up with a way to get into the newsroom.

One day, a reporter was getting ready for an interview with U.S. senator and former vice president Hubert Humphrey when he was visiting in Tifton.

White introduced himself to Humphrey and asked to take a picture with him.

“He said ‘mic check, testing one, two, three’, then I said ‘senator let me take you back to your group.’" White recalled. "So I walked him right away from the cameras. Channel 10 never got their interview.”

After stealing a WALB exclusive, White got a call from the news director.

“Jerry called me and asked me was i still interested in the job at Channel 10," White said. “I said ‘Jerry, when can i start?’ He said ‘don’t carry me too fast now,’ I said ‘you called me and I’m ready.’ I went to work the next day."

Once he got in, White quickly moved to the front of the camera as a reporter.

“I took a quick look at it and I read it really quickly and he said ‘wow, have you done this before’ I said ‘what,’ he said ‘you were just on TV, you were on the news,’” White said.

Three months later, he found out the higher ups were plotting to fire him. He was assigned stories that were more than a hundred miles away.

“They gave me seven stories to do, on a Saturday, by myself, just me and the camera and the car,” White said.

White got the stories done and was promoted to the anchor desk. But some viewers, White pointed out, had a hard time accepting him.

Some even called to complain.

“And I happened to get one of those calls one day and it said ‘want you to get that ... off of the TV,’" White said. "I said ‘if you don’t like what you see then change your channel.’”

Eventually, the viewers grew to like him, White said.

Looking back, White enjoyed his time at WALB and stayed until 1972.

“It was a great experience, cause you got to meet people that you wouldn’t normally meet," White said. “Speakers who came to town. You had senators and congresspersons. Corporate people who came to town.”

White went on to work in Georgia legislature in 1974, where he worked for more than 20 years.

White wrote legislature to make Ray Charles’ “Georgia on my Mind” the state song.

White brought Charles to the capital to sing on the floor of the house. White also said he wrote the Georgia lottery bill in 1977.

White is now in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama caring for a family member.

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