There are a few special heroes in my life, including my first-grade teacher Alice Foster; elementary school basketball coach Ben Adamson; radio station manager and mentor Franklin (Chick) Brown.
For the sake of this article, allow me to focus on another personal hero, Sam Hale, a native of Dibrell in Warren County, who is a Horatio Alger success story; a person worthy of emulating.
He was reared in a modest, dysfunctional environment, but rose to fame and success through his own grit and hard work.
I recently asked Sam, now retired and living in Atlanta, to share an overview of his remarkable story which includes being a top-rated, major-market radio personality to later a Wall Street trained financial analyst.
He recalled, “Education was very important to me, especially being involved in 4-H Club and FFA public speaking. In 1954, I was a delegate to the 4-H Congress, having won the district public speaking contest.”
“I wore trousers from a hand-me-down suit while attending the Congress. Thankfully, the delegates were given a nice white sweater with the large 4-H symbol along with a green tie. So, from my appearance, the other delegates didn’t know but that I was from a ‘normal family’.”
“During that Congress in Nashville, I was elected governor of the Tennessee 4-H Club. While campaigning for the position, one of my talents was singing. This caught the attention of John MacDonald who had a farm program on WSM Radio. He asked me to sing on his popular show, ‘Noontime Neighbors.’”
“Chick Brown was editor of The Southern Standard newspaper in McMinnville at the time and wrote several articles about me. McMinnville had one radio station back then; WMMT where I would sometimes hang out and dream about being on the air. Royce Richards offered me an opportunity in December, 1953 to work at the station reading ‘Letters to Santa’.
“Then I was asked to work Christmas day at the station. Wow that was the most memorable day of my life; working from 5:00 a.m. until midnight.”
“On May 1, 1955, I was summoned to the principal’s office at Dibrell High School where I was introduced to Gwen Brown, wife of Chick Brown. Since I didn’t have a telephone, he sent her to ask if I would be interested in working part time at a new radio station, WBMC, where he had been named manager.”
“Thanks to school officials, I was allowed to work at the station from 5-7 a.m.; attend classes from 8 a.m.-noon; then be dismissed to work in the afternoon at WBMC. All of this was contingent on maintaining good grades, which I did; later graduating as valedictorian.”
Sam became a regular at WBMC following high school graduation, and as a supplement to his income, he joined the Tennessee National Guard; later joining the U.S. Army.
He qualified for the Department of Defense Information School and was assigned to the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service.
Following his honorable discharge from the Army, his remarkable broadcasting career blossomed into being a top-rated DJ at stations WKDA in Nashville; WYDE in Birmingham; WADO in New York City; WJJD in Chicago; WDGY in Minneapolis; and WQXI in Atlanta.
In 1966, he made the transition from radio broadcasting to what would become a nationally recognized and respected stock and bond analyst.
At the height of his latter career, he was a senior technical analyst for one of the top 10 New York Stock Exchange members; writing and broadcasting daily comments and forecasts for more than 7,000 brokers who represented millions of clients.
Sam would be the first to admit that it has been a remarkable journey from Dibrell, Tenn., to Atlanta with all the stops in between.
While prominent celebrities and successful business investors have profited from his efforts, some of us Baby Boomers growing up in Middle Tennessee remember “Sammy” who continues to be an inspiration for those privileged to call him a friend. MP