Leadership Rutherford has named WGNS owner and broadcaster Bart Walker as the 2011 recipient of the Pinnacle Award, given to someone who has demonstrated significant leadership throughout his or her career.
“Bart Walker is what the Pinnacle Award is all about,” said Leadership Rutherford Director Stephanie Brackman, in a news release from Leadership Rutherford. “He has demonstrated his continued leadership throughout his successful broadcasting career and by providing countless hours of volunteer service to our community.”
Walker knew in the third grade that he wanted a career in broadcasting, after getting a tape recorder for Christmas and making radio shows that only those in ear-shot could hear. By the seventh grade, he built a small radio station in his bedroom and extended his programs to a few blocks from his home. During those years, he would visit Nashville radio stations on the weekend, anxious to volunteer and do any job needed.
He landed his first real job during the summer after eighth grade, when a Nashville FM station allowed him to play tapes and records on Saturday nights, earning a whopping 75 cents an hour. After a year, his work included adjusting the volume to get the Boots Randolph Show on the air “live” from Printer’s Alley, two blocks from the station. Walker always wore a coat and tie to work so when a very hoarse Boots Randolph called and asked if the station announcer could come down and emcee the broadcast, Walker agreed, never thinking there was a problem with an older looking 15-year old being in the Carousel Lounge.
At age 18, Walker worked mornings at WLAC-FM, getting news from the wire service, while the station’s overnight legends were having their final cup of coffee. Each morning people like John R, Hoss Allen, and Herman Grizzard (creator of “Man On The Street”) would tutor this 18-year old who was in love with radio.
That love remains after several decades, as Walker still says “I can’t say that I’ve ever worked, radio is too much fun to call it work.”
After graduating from MTSU in 1968, he had stints in public relations and advertising before returning to radio, as station manager for WAMB, a new Big Band station in Nashville.
Walker has owned and operated the local WGNS radio station since 1984, making him the station’s fourth owner of the Good Neighbor Station, and the one with the longest tenure. 2012 marks Walker’s 28th year at the station, a family tradition that son Scott is continuing.
“Filling the information needs of a community is the primary job of any media,” said Walker. “If you focus all of your attention on doing that well, the other things that allow you to continue in business will follow.”
Community involvement is a must for Walker, who has chaired the local Heart of Tennessee Red Cross Chapter during Hurricane Katrina, CrimeStoppers of Rutherford County and the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters. He previously served on the Chamber’s board of directors, the St. Clair Street Senior Center’s commission, as an Elder for Murfreesboro’s First Presbyterian Church, and currently serves as president of the Murfreesboro Rotary Club.
In 2003, Tennessee television and radio broadcasters honored Walker as the state’s broadcaster of the year with their Distinguished Service Award.
He married his school-time sweetheart Lee Ann in 1967, and tells with amazement that “she has put up with me for 44-years.” They have two adult children: Scott, who with wife Angie has two gifted children, and Kristin, who with husband Matthew Carlton, has a “miracle baby” born almost four months premature and doing great at nine months.
Walker will be honored at the Chamber’s annual Business at its Best reception on Friday, Feb. 3, at the Embassy Suites Murfreesboro Hotel and Conference Center.
The reception will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a dinner at 6:30 p.m. Reservations are $60 for Chamber members and $80 for non-members. To reserve your seat, contact the Chamber at 615-893-6556 or visit www.rutherfordchamber.org.
The Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce seeks to promote economic development and a quality of life to benefit all residents of Rutherford County.
Programs, events and services are offered to both members and non-members. The Chamber operates out of a main office on Medical Center Parkway in Murfreesboro, and branch offices in Smyrna and La Vergne. Learn more at www.rutherfordchamber.org.