On June 13, 1950, WCRI AM 1050 aired in Jackson County, under the ownership of Pat Courington. At the time, advertisements for the station ran “Continuous entertainment and news, local and national. Hillbilly, gospel and popular programs throughout the day.” In 1964 the station moved a few miles down the road but remained in Scottsboro.
On February 4, 1982 the call sign was changed to WWIC, standing for We Worship in Christ. Four years later, along came Greg Bell, current owner, manager and voice of WWIC radio. Bell came to WWIC with 10 years of prior experience in radio, and began at WWIC under manager Randy Potter. The following year Potter left and Bell was asked to manage the station by owner Happy Thompson. Bell jokes that he’s had two great bosses in life, one who taught him to do, the ten years prior to his arrival in Scottsboro, and one who let him do, Thompson, who trusted him to run his station.
Since coming to Scottsboro, Bell has put in thousands of hours for our community. He is a one man show, running the station by day, and by night can be found somewhere in the state covering Jackson County sports, whether it be baseball, softball, football or volleyball.
Bell not only loves our sport teams, but he also has a strong love for our county in general. He says that no matter how much he has to work, he will do anything to “Keep it local.” Bell says, “Small towns like ours depend on local. You can get music on any device, but you can’t get party line, local sports and emergency information on any other source.”
Not long ago, there was a push by big vehicle manufacturers to remove AM/FM radio from vehicles, because we are a subscription based society, and the big guys wanted something consumers had to pay for. Bell along with many other state and national radio broadcasters went to Washington. During their trip, they lobbied. Bell knew if car manufacturers removed AM/FM radio, it would hurt small, rural towns like ours. The Emergency Alert System was built on the AM platform. On July 27, 2023 the AM Radio in Every Vehicle Act passed.
As many of us remember, the 2011 tornados devastated our area. Without Bell and WWIC many of us would not have had the information needed during the four days with no electricity. During those four days, Bell ran his station off of generators. He says that since that incident, his only regret is not staying on air after 7 p.m., because many people told him afterwards that when he signed off during that time, they felt alone. Knowing he was on air was comforting to people all across Jackson County. Bell feels this is the greatest public service he’s ever done for the area.
While many agree, Bell doesn’t give himself enough credit for those who listen to him daily. During the Skyline High School softball playoffs the team was delayed by several hours due to weather. Bell sat it out so that he could cover the games. He remembers thinking how late it was and that people were probably not even listening, however, he began receiving texts from listeners thanking him for not giving up and remaining there to cover the games.
Bell still hosts party line every morning. Party line doesn’t receive as many calls as it once did, but I would wager that the show still has just as many listeners. Just as a small, locally owned and operated newspaper sent free of charge is important to our residents, so the same is true about WWIC radio. The importance of these services are apparent when feedback is given such as, “You saved my life in 2020 during Covid when I couldn’t leave my home.”
Bell recently started covering the Veterans Memorial Day program and states that when he had telephone calls thanking him for covering the program from home bound residents he knew, “I’m doing just what God wants me to be doing.” Bell further stated that if his coverage is important to just 10 or 15 people, he’s going to continue to cover the things that are important to those.
While those of us in Jackson County recognize Bell’s importance in our lives, the Alabama Broadcasters Association does as well and recently named Bell the Broadcaster of the Year and inducted him into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
I’ll end with excerpts from letters submitted for Bell’s nomination to the Hall of Fame. They speak for themselves:
“The genuine excitement and emotion can be felt in every home!”
“You are the epitome of a true public servant!”
“I only just met you a few months ago. I came away knowing you have a good heart, a caring demeanor and you have been a true advocate not only for the people you work with, the community you serve, but also for our broadcast industry”
“His local radio station is the only of its kind in our town, and he continues to broadcast our sporting events free of charge. I cannot imagine a school or community without his voice and his service waking us each day and leaving us each night with his patented sign off, ‘This is Greg Bell saying good night and Go Wildcats!’”
“Your success as an individual operator in this day and age proves that there is still a market for well run, locally owned and operated stations.”
“You and WWIC are the backbone of Scottsboro’s past, present and future. No one else has ever been as dedicated as you at covering high school football and basketball in Jackson County. When I heard you won, I immediately thought of Coach Morris and how proud he would have been for you. How he would have made this trip to Birmingham to celebrate and how he would have called you Mr. Hall of Fame afterwards. I am positive he is looking down and is very proud of you.”
“You will never know how much you meant to the citizens of Scottsboro and Jackson County during your coverage of the 2011 tornado outbreak and the subsequent power outages that affected our county afterwards.”
“You have had a positive impact throughout our community with your leadership, pride, motivation, support, loyalty, compassion and just the love you bring into the lives of our community.”
“Greg is always keeping the community informed and protected. Congratulations Greg, and without a doubt, Coach Morris is looking down today, smiling and so proud of your great accomplishments!”
“Your excitement speaks for itself, especially when you say, ‘I’m not sure about that call’ or yell, ‘Cats win, Cats win’. It gives goose bumps for all who bleed black and gold.”
“Greg Bell taught me that success is not measured by the amount of money that you make. Success is measured by the difference you make in the lives of others; it is relationships that truly matter.”
“You will never know how many lives you have touched. This community owes you a huge thanks.”
“Every school system, both city and county, need radio/sports announcers who tells it like it is and loves what he or she does.”
“With your coverage, our community members who are not able to travel can follow our young athletes and give them the opportunity to hear play by play of our athletic events like it was before technology made everything a click away. There is just something about listening to it on the ratio and putting that image in your mind about how things are unfolding.”
“I have never seen someone outside of Skyline do and give to our school and community as Mr. Bell does.”
“Your work ethic and dedication to radio broadcasting is unmatched. I’ve told several, you are ‘The energizer bunny of radio.’ You never once did it to try to be somebody special or seek the spotlight. Your focus has always been on serving others.”
“Your commitment to our community generally and to our youth and sports county-wide puts you in a class all your own.”
“You own, operate and you actually are WWIC radio that has been part of my life since I was a little kid in the early 1960s.”
“WWIC and Greg Bell are still standing, still serving, still pressing forward, and still helping us all ‘watch it on our radio’.”
Congratulations, Greg. Thank you for all you do for our county and residents and thank you for being The Voice of Jackson County.
by Heather Dohring