LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For 70 years, WHAS11 has been telling your story, and for 70 years we’ve been on your side. Thank you for sticking with us and trusting us to provide you the most accurate and update news for the community.
Here are some things you might not know about WHAS11’s past that are still apart of Kentuckiana:
1. WHAS-TV signed on at 1 P.M. Monday, March 27, 1950.
2. WHAS-TV went on the air as Channel 9 broadcasting at 9,600 Watts.
3. WHAS-TV went on the air as the CBS affiliate, staying with the network for the next 40 years.
4. Diane Sawyer sang with the Motet Singers during the 1961 WHAS Crusade For Children and was also a finalist to be the Crusade Queen for that year. She first appeared on WHAS 11 in 1982 when she joined CBS anchoring the Morning News, then later started reporting for 60 Minutes. In 1989 she left for ABC News. The very next year we did the same thing.
5. WHAS-TV went on the air as a CBS affiliate, staying with the network for the next 40 years.
6. On Sunday, September 9, 1990, at 6 A.M. WHAS 11 switched from being the CBS affiliate to the ABC affiliate.
7. We were originally broadcast on Channel 9.
8. Our signal was originally broadcast on 9,600 Watts
9. On Friday, February 7, 1953, we switched over to Channel 11 broadcasting with 316,000 watts becoming the nation’s most powerful Television station.
10. WHAS-TV first broadcast the Kentucky Derby in 1950.
11. WHAS-TV is responsible for getting the Kentucky Derby to be broadcast on national TV. After showing it locally for 2 years we suggested to our network at the time, CBS that they could use our camera set up at Churchill Downs and show it to the nation. They did just that in 1952 for the first time allowing the whole country to see the famed race live. Previously it was just shown in film reels.
12. When ABC took over the national coverage of the Kentucky Derby in 1975 WHAS was the only CBS affiliate to keep the Derby. Churchill Downs allowed this because of our pivotal role in getting the Derby nationally televised. After the Bingham family sold WHAS-TV in 1986 WHAS lost the rights to the Derby from 1988-1990. The famed race came back to WHAS-TV when we switched affiliation to ABC in late 1990 and the Kentucky Derby returned to our air from 1991-2000.
13. The most successful local telethon in the United States is the WHAS Crusade For Children.
14 Jim Walton was the original announcer/emcee on WHAS-TV. Hosting the dedicatory program. He is remembered by some as the best voice in local broadcasting.
15. Jim Walton emceed the very first WHAS Crusade For Children when it aired at 10:30 pm Saturday, November 20, 1954, to Sunday. He was also the first Director of the WHAS Crusade For Children.
16. For the First Crusade, there were 375 professional phone operators voluntarily manning 89 telephones and took 25,000 calls during the marathon.
17. Warner Brothers movie star Pat O’Brien was the headliner at the first Crusade in 1954.
18. The WHAS Crusade For Children was originally held at The Memorial Auditorium on South 4th St. from 1954-1974.
19. WHAS Legend Fred Wiche started here in 1968. He was originally a news reporter/anchor until 1974 when he did his first garden report: The Weekend Gardner. From then until he passed away in June 1998 he educated thousands on his regular garden report including prime-time specials.
20. WHAS Legend Caywood Ledford worked for WHAS Radio and Television for decades as sports director and voice of the University of Kentucky calling games for 39 years and calling the KY Derby for 22 years. He retired as Sports Director in 1979 but was apart of our Derby Day until 2001.
21. From January 1971 to March 1980 our popular mid-morning talk show Omelet aired. It was hosted by Milton Metz and Faith Lyles (wife of former professional football player Lenny Lyles)
22. Louisville Tonight, our popular evening magazine show aired from September 1979-July 1982.
23. The New Louisville Tonight Live Show (as it was now renamed) aired from March 1991-August 1999.
24. WHAS broadcast our first Kentucky Derby months after going on the air in 1950.
25. Judge Robert Worth Bingham bought The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times newspapers in 1918 and founded the first Radio station in the state of Kentucky in 1922. WHAS Radio officially went on the air Tuesday, July 18, 1922. He delivered a dedicatory message on the first program. Nearly 28 years later his son Barry Bingham Sr. read the dedicatory message after founding their family’s newest endeavor, WHAS-TV on March 27, 1950.
26. In May 1986 Barry Bingham sold WHAS TV to Providence Journal Inc. The same year the family also sold WHAS Radio to Clear Channel Communications and The Courier-Journal to Gannett.
Barry Bingham and Faye Emerson during the filming of “Wonderful Town” in July, 1951.
27. Our first female news anchor Kirstie Wilde joined WHAS-TV in April 1978 and anchored the 6 & 11 PM newscasts until leaving for California in December 1981.
28. One of our most admired anchors is Jim Mitchell who started at WHAS in 1976 and anchored our 6 pm news until he left to attend UofL Law School in 1988. He anchored the 11 P.M. News until 1984.
29. Gary Roedemeier anchored and reported for 25 years. He joined WHAS 11 as our 11 P.M. News anchor in 1984 and became our main anchor in 1988. He retired in 2009 but has continued to fill in and he has always covered the Derby fo us every year since. In 2018 he celebrated 50 years in TV Broadcasting.
30. The very first color program on WHAS-TV was CBS’s Toast of The Town on August 22, 1954. It was later named The Ed Sullivan Show.
31. After 59 years of broadcasting with an aspect ratio of 4:3 WHAS started broadcasting in a wider picture of 16X9 in August 2009.
32. The Binghams built the new Courier-Journal building
33. Chuck Olmstead started reporting for WHAS 11 in 1975.
34. Besides working in New York City for a brief stint (he missed Louisville) Chuck Olmstead worked here for over 3 decades until passing away in March 2009 from a brain hemorrhage.
35. Chuck Olmstead’s widow Candy has done a wonderful job at educating people on the risks of a brain aneurysm. She has been on multiple telethons on WHAS 11 since Chuck’s passing raising money to pay for testing people for the medical problem.
36. In July 1961 Louisville went from being in the Central Time Zone to our current Eastern Time Zone. The time of some of our shows changed too.
37. When the new (current) Courier-Journal building was opened in September 1948 it had state of the art TV studios inside the 4th, 5th and 6th floors built specifically for the new TV station that wouldn’t start broadcasting for over a year.
38. On Friday, May 10, 1968, WHAS-TV moved from our home the last 18 years in the Courier-Journal building to our current home, the new WHAS Building. It would house WHAS TV, WHAS Radio and WAMZ Radio for 30 years.
39. Even though the separation of the former Bingham stations occurred in 1986, WHAS Radio and WAMZ Radio stayed in the WHAS building another 12 years until 1998 when the 2 radio stations moved to the new Clear Channel Radio Building on Bishop Lane.
40. Walt Disney’s show “Disneyland” (later named the Wonderful World of Color/Disney) was originally on WHAS TV. It was broadcast on the ABC-TV network but since Louisville had no ABC-affiliate yet we aired. It debuted October 1954 the same month as the WHAS Crusade for Children.
41 The first Thunder Over Louisville was held over the old Cardinal Stadium in 1990. Our Melissa Swan and Frank Hudson were on the floor of the stadium showing the skydivers land but did not show the fireworks.
42 Thunder Over Louisville made the move to the Waterfront in 1991 and we became the official home of Thunder from 1991 to 2003. Our team pioneered how to televise the spectacle from the airshow to the fireworks with multiple cameras throughout downtown Louisville. We have since broadcast it in 2009, 2013, and 2017.
43. The Louisville Tonight team of John O’Connor then Bob Sokoler, and Leah Bisig then Kirby Adams hosted our Thunder Over Louisville coverage from 1991 to 1995. In 1996 our news team took over with Gary Roedemeier, Melissa Swan, Doug Proffitt, and Jean West anchoring.
44. The very first Superbowl was on WHAS 11/CBS on Sunday, January 15, 1967. It was Ray Scott, Jack Whitaker, and Frank Gifford were the commentators. (It was also on NBC)
45. WHAS 11 has been the home of the Academy Awards since 1991.
46. Melissa Swan started working at WHAS 11 in January 1985 as a reporter.
Doug Proffitt and Melissa Swan are showing off their Derby Spirit!
47. Melissa Swan started anchored the 6 P.M. newscast from March 1988 to April 2016.
48. Melissa Swan started anchoring the 11 P.M. news in 1991.
49. Melissa Swan was one of the first local reporters to report from New York City after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
49. Melissa Swan retired from WHAS 11 on April 21, 2016.
50. FISBIE, our mascot debuted November 7, 1955. His name is an acronym for our slogan at the time, “Foremost In-Service Best In Entertainment”.
fisbie with mobile news room truck at fair.jpg
51. Allen Blankenbaker was an animator for Walt Disney Productions before leaving to fight in World War II. He then came to Louisville to start working at WHAS-TV. He was our TV Graphic Design Artist who created FISBIE.
50. 1977 was the year that the WHAS Crusade For Children raised over 1 million dollars during one telethon.
51. Phyllis Knight was one of the very first female broadcasters in Louisville, joining WHAS in 1955. She hosted Small Talk on WHAS-TV before joining the news department as a reporter in 1968.
52. Phyllis Knight won 2 McCall’s Magazine Golden Mike Awards in 1957. She was named Outstanding Woman In Radio and Television for that year, the highest award for a female broadcaster in the country at that time. She also won it in 1963.
53. Phyllis Knight interviewed President Harry Truman, Minnie Pearl, Eleanor Roosevelt, Johnny Unitas, Ralph Bunche, and Rev. Billy Graham, Buster Keaton, and Ronald Reagan.
54. In 1976 Phyllis Knight became the first full-time executive director of the WHAS Crusade For Children (the second Crusade Director after Jim Walton)
55. Bud Harbsmeier was a WHAS reporter from 1961 to 1981. He then became the Director of the WHAS Crusade For Children until retiring after the 2000 Crusade.
56. Doug Proffitt first started at WHAS 11 as an intern in 1979 at 16 years old. He became an employee in April 1987 as reporter and weekend anchor. He is the most senior full-time on-air member of WHAS 11.
57. Mrs. Paul E. Eubank was chosen from the WHAS Radio show “Coffee Call” program to break ground on the first WHAS-TV Tower in September 1949. It cost 150,000 dollars to build. It stood at the corner of 6th and Broadway for 15 years from 1950-1965. It was taken down for the new Federal Building to be built.
58. Our current Transmission Tower in Floyds Knobs began construction in September 1964 when Mrs. Paul E. Eubank was asked back to break ground as she did 15 years earlier. It is 973 feet tall and cost 900,000 dollars to build.
59. The Moral Side of the News is the longest-running local non-news program. It started on WHAS-Radio in 1952 and is now broadcast on both WHAS Radio and TV every week. The panelists of clergy also decide what agencies get grants from the money raised from the WHAS Crusade For Children.
60. WHAS-TV has covered the Louisville visits of all 13 United States Presidents that have been in office since we went on the air. We first interviewed current President Trump at of the 125th Kentucky Derby in 1999 with his date, then Melania Knauss.
61. Famed feature reporter Byron Crawford anchored weekends and reported at WHAS-TV in the 1970s before leaving for the Courier-Journal. He started a local version of the famed Charles Kuralt feature “On The Road”. It became so popular WHAS syndicated to other TV stations, that is when it took on the title “Crossroads”. It was later continued with reporter Ned McGrath. Byron Crawford now contributes to Kentucky Living Magazine.
62. The inspiration to Will Ferrell’s character Ron Burgundy of the Anchorman films was based on Mort Crim. He anchored at WHAS-TV from January 1970 to September 1972. He left for Philadelphia.
63. Louisvillian Monica Kaufman worked was one of the first African American anchors in the area. She left WHAS 11 for Atlanta where she had a full career as one of the top anchors there.
64. Linda Steel was our popular weathercaster in the 1970s.
65. Chuck Taylor was WHAS-TV’s very first meteorologist. He started in May 1976 and was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. He passed away in 1997.
In late September of 1989, WHAS TV’s legendary Chief Meteorologist Chuck Taylor held on tight to report the onslaught of Hurricane Hugo as it was hitting Charleston, South Carolina.
66. Good Morning Kentuckiana debuted on WHAS 11 in 1993. It was originally anchored by our award-winning feature reporter Barry Bernson and Rachel Platt. At one time it was the #1 rated local newscast out of all the ABC local stations. Ken Schultz was the original meteorologist. It aired until the debut of current WHAS-TV morning Wake Up in July 2019. It was also anchored by Joe Arnold, Renee Murphy, Kelsey Starks, Andy Treinen, Juliana Valencia, Derick Rose, and Chris Williams.
67. Bill Small was News Director at WHAS in the 1950s to 1960 and is given credit for establishing the standards of the news division still followed today, building the reputation of WHAS 11 News. He later became a vice president of CBS News and then President of NBC News. Under his leadership, WHAS-TV produced an average of one documentary every month including the award-winning Scars on a Mountainside about stripe mining. He reported it and Fred Wiche produced.
68. Dick Oberlin was the first News Director of WHAS-TV and Pete French was the original news anchor starting the very first day in 1950.
69. WHAS TV News was the first station to have a daily film reel from the beginning.
70. WHAS-TV has one of the most comprehensive archives of the area. In February 2020 famed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns came to the archive in preparation for his newest film he is working “Muhammad Ali”. He will be using our film to show the young Cassius Clay. When he was here his team found the earliest known footage of a 14-year-old Cassius Clay. His producer told us we have one of the best cataloged and organized local archives in the nation.