So long Jerry Tate and thanks for all the memories!

I haven’t talked with Jerry Tate since around the first of November and at that time he told me Friday, December 23rd would be his last day on the air at the studio down on the river.
I don’t know if they plan a big send off but they should.
For those of you who don’t know him, Jerry is a class act. He’s actually kind of quiet to work around but has a great sense of humor and loves to tell and hear a great joke. I remember he couldn’t wait to show a gift that he had bought for someone in the family. It was a Billy Bass, one of those singing mounted fish. He may have had one of the first ones in town.
I first met Jerry at the New Daisy Theatre in 1989 when we were both attending the Gridiron show in Memphis. At the time, he was still working at WHBQ where he had gone for a few years after they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Jerry was with his wife and he came over and spoke to me, calling me by name. I was flattered by such a move since I had only been in town about five months. We exchanged pleasantries and it wasn’t long after that he moved back to the studio down by the river.
I’ve seen Jerry in a variety of situations and even when he was angry, he still seemed to be calm. There was that one time that Congressman Harold Ford Senior called him to chew him out and Senior apparently had the wrong information. Those of us in the newsroom knew the exchange had gotten more than heated when Jerry uttered the words “No congressman, you go to hell”. Jerry got a round of applause from most of those sitting around him in the newsroom.
I think Jerry then walked into the news director’s office and explained what happened and he may have even offered to resign but he said he wasn’t going to take that kind of abuse from someone who was wrongly accusing him. The news director went to bat for Jerry, as he should. Would that happen now? Who knows.
Jerry was a great ad-libber, a talent I never seemed to cultivate. If you had a question about someone or something in the city of Memphis, chances are Jerry knew the answer or could steer you in the right direction.
He was patient and would offer suggestions on a story if you asked. If he had an ego, I don’t think I ever saw it come out. That’s compared to some who think that just because they are on television, that somehow, that makes them special and gives them the right to be rude or talk down to people. Jerry would be the first to tell you that being on TV is just a job and there is no glamour to being on TV.
The up and coming generation would do well to follow Jerry’s example, but from what I’ve seen so far, they won’t. Too many are all flash and no substance and they just want the “old folks” to get out of the way, so they can show everyone how it is done.
I think the newsroom will have a large hole in it that can’t be filled after you leave.
Good luck my friend. Know that you will be missed.

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7 Comments on “So long Jerry Tate and thanks for all the memories!”

  1. autoegocrat Says:

    I don’t know if you’re destined to make it to the skies after being on the air, but you sure seem to have this blogging thing figured out.

    I never, ever had a clue about this side of Jerry Tate. My nearly lifeong Jerry Tate experience comes in the form of clips and soundbites, and you just made the man more real to me than he’s ever been.

    The old jounalistic axiom that the journalist should never be a part of the story defies the meaning of the word ‘journal.’ After reading this, all of his reporting just took on a color that I never knew was there. It is a staggering and sudden experience. Thanks for the color TV, dude, that’s a pretty generous Christmas gift.

    Blogs by journalists help me distinguish between what the journalist wants to say and what the journalist is paid to say. Why is an interview valuable in the first place? Because the information comes processed by a genuine human being. In some cases, the journalist is the only human witness to the event, and the established rules of journalism do not allow the human being to bear witness. Blogs circumvent this rule entirely. Peggy Phillip knows this.

    Remember the Hindenburg: “Oh, the humanity!” That was an editorial comment, and one of the most famous quotes from a journalist in history.

    I hope you find yourself in the cockpit soon, but in the meantime, keep up what you’re doing.

  2. Doug Johnson Says:

    I used to work at 3 with Jerry & Joe. I actually talk or trade e-mail with Joe, so he already knows what I think (I think), but I wanted to say something about Jerry as well.

    You see too few people like Jerry in the business anymore — big “J” journalists — serious people who understand what news really is and how to report it. All too often, people like that are far outnumbered by “show biz people” who get wrapped up in the production elements of TV.

    Jerry is a class act, and I think he’s taken an unfair rap from some people in Memphis. A lot of the discourse in that area devolves into petty race-based name calling. I know a lot of Black people who are convinced Jerry is a racist. Not true. I’ve been black all my life and I know a racist when I stumble across one. I like and respect Jerry, mostly because he always called things straight. None of the tip-toeing around issues to avoid pissing people off. In Memphis, if you don’t do that, someone is going to play the race card.

    Jerry is a good guy, in a time when you don’t see enough good guys… and he’s been a good newsman when you see damn few of them. And goodness knows, he’s had a tough year.

    Good luck to you Jerry.

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  4. Anonymous Says:

    Two examples of Jerry Tate:

    I think it was either Earl Ferrell or the tall guy from Jackson doing the weather on Halloween ad libbed and told the viewers to go out and get their Jerry Tate masks for trick or treating. (He had a black and white still of Jerry on a stick) Jerry took the joke very well.

    The other, when Dave Brown lost his daughter and grandchildren in that terrible accident, his first night back, he mentioned the support, encouragement, and friendship of Jerry Tate during this time. That’s class….thank you, Jerry!!

  5. Joe Larkins Says:

    Actually, I think it was Brian Teigland who pushed the Jerry Tate masks. I’ve seen one and it’s quite funny to see.
    Jerry truly is a class act. I don’t know that we will see another one like him in Memphis.

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  7. Anonymous Says:

    I retired after 30 years in law enforcement. I know the things one can get into out there in the streets. My heart goes out to Jerry and wish him the best. Maybe he can use this horrable event to begin a positive education for the new breed of officers. I know my son could have used a firm ear.

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