GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - Friends and neighbors in Greene County have gathered around the radio at 12:30 p.m. every weekday for 50 years to hear the news from the same familiar voice.
“Good afternoon, this is Maxine Humphreys,” the newscaster greets her WGRV-AM listeners, immediately jumping into a commercial for a funeral home, her longtime sponsor. “I will have the latest on the local scene after this.”
Since 1953, Mrs. Humphreys — who won’t reveal her age but is likely in her early 70s — has delivered her 15-minute dispatches daily with the authority of Walter Cronkite and the homespun appeal of Aunt Bea from “The Andy Griffith Show.”
WGRV, a 1,000-watt country music station that doesn’t reach much beyond the 65,000 residents of this East Tennessee county bordering North Carolina, may as well be named “Maxine’s station.” That’s what locals call it, general manager Ronnie Metcalfe said.
“She is a legend in Greeneville,” said Joe Hickerson, president of Doughty-Stevens Funeral Home, her sponsor since she took the job. “It wouldn’t surprise me if one of every two radios in Greene County, and maybe more, is tuned to the noonday news with Maxine.”
In a community without a network TV station, farmers plan their chores and lunch around her newscasts.
Paul Metcalfe, the retired patriarch of the family-owned radio station, said a doctor told him that he stopped making noontime house calls because his patients “wouldn’t tell him what was wrong until Maxine was off” the air.
Accolades poured in to recognize Mrs. Humphreys’ 50th anniversary.
“You’ve distinguished yourself as one of the truly dedicated broadcast professionals in our business,” wrote Edward Fritts, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Broadcasters.
Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bill Frist of Tennessee, and Gov. Phil Bredesen sent congratulations.
“I feel like I have been where God can use me because I am doing things for the people,” she said. “I have really taken it to heart.”
A Greene County native, she was in her early 20s working in the employment office at Tennessee Eastman in Oak Ridge when the WGRV job opened. Armed with a high school diploma and a year studying voice at Tusculum College in Greeneville, she applied.
Over the years, Mrs. Humphreys took correspondence courses, learned to type and became full time. She handled everything from the station’s books to its radio bingo game.
She occasionally covered the news. A yellowed file of United Press International clippings contains her reports on the birth of quadruplets, traffic fatalities, ice storms and a firefighter killed in a blaze.