Luther:  70 years on the air, still going strong

Luther with local artist Wendell Cooley

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB)- The longest-running broadcaster in the history of the world keeps adding to his record each day, and his longtime employer got him to slow down just long enough to take a bow.

Luther Masingill began his unprecedented career at the microphone on December 31, 1940 and never stopped talking.  Now in his 71st year on WDEF radio, Luther was cheered by his co-workers and honored by government officials at an employee appreciation lunch on Thursday.

In addition to his highly-rated morning show, Luther has also appeared on WDEF-TV each day since it signed on the air in 1954.  WDEF-TV General Manager Phil Cox led station employees in a standing ovation, to which Luther replied, "Does that mean I have to stop now?"

Of course, Luther has no intention of stopping.  Still bright and cheery each morning, with a sound that inspired a 1940s newspaper writer to dub him "the man with sunshine in his voice," Luther says he looks forward to his show each morning.  "I love my co-workers, and my listeners," he says. 

Long known for reuniting lost pets with their frantic owners, and recovering misplaced wallets and purses, Luther has won numerous state and national awards, but has yet to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.  The Chicago-based organization has occasionally placed the Chattanooga legend on its national ballot, but he is usually pitted against broadcasters from cities in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, putting him at a decided disadvantage. 

"I'm not interested in awards," the 89-year-old icon says.  "That's not why I got into this profession.  I just enjoy entertaining people, and helping them out when I can."

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger showered praise on the veteran broadcaster, and local artist Wendell Cooley presented him with a painting depicting him with his famed Model T Ford.  Doris Ellis, herself a 44-year WDEF employee, presented Luther with a photo of him surrounded by dogs, with the inscription, "Thank you Luther."

Accompanied by Mary, his wife of 54 years, Luther says he is proud of his achievements and thankful for the recognition, "but mostly I'm proud of where I am right now."  Thousands of loyal listeners are as well.