Harold Johnson (sportscaster)

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Harold Johnson, known as "The Big Guy", was sports director for WSOC-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina for 26 years, during which time he won four Emmy Awards and was nominated for two others.[1] He was the 2010 Republican nominee for North Carolina's 8th congressional district.[2]

Early life, education and career[edit]

Johnson was born in Camden, New Jersey[1] and moved to North Carolina in 1958[3] at age 10.[4] He graduated from Statesville Senior High School, and received an economics degree from Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina. He also served in the United States Marine Corps at Camp LeJeune.

Career as sportscaster[edit]

Johnson started his broadcast career at WSIC radio in Statesville,[1] where he hosted a music program called "The HaJo Show".[5] While at WSIC, he met Jim Thacker of WBTV, where he acted as weekend sports anchor and later worked nights. On WBT, he was morning co-host with Bob Lacey[6] and the play-by-play announcer and pre-game host for the Charlotte Hornets of the World Football League.[7] He also covered the Masters Golf Tournament for ABC radio.[1]

Late in 1979, Johnson moved to WSOC-TV.[6] In 1980, Johnson became the station's sports director. During his 26 years there, "The Big Guy" covered the NBA Hornets and Bobcats, NASCAR, the NFL Carolina Panthers, and college basketball teams from North Carolina that reached the Final Four.

In 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1995, Johnson received the Outstanding Sportscasting Emmy. He was also nominated in 1997 and 1999.[1] Johnson also played a role in moving WSOC-TV from a distant second in the TV news ratings to first place. He was also noted for being the first to announce that Charlotte had its first NBA team, and he once had to break into regular programming to announce a regular news bulletin.[6]

In 2000, Sports Illustrated referred to Johnson as "the dean of Charlotte sportscasters" who had become "an expert in broadcasting sports sorrow"; the magazine listed the many tragedies he was known for reporting, including the deaths of Kenny Irwin, Fred Lane, Adam Petty and Bobby Phills. Other events included the murder trial of Rae Carruth, the sexual assault trial of George Shinn, and other legal troubles facing the area's major sports figures.[8]

Johnson retired from WSOC in 2006 to spend more time with his family.[9]

In 2009, The Charlotte Observer named Johnson as number one on the newspaper's list of top sportscasters in Charlotte. Langston Wertz Jr. said "His 'big guy' persona was ESPN before there was ESPN."[10]

2010 U.S. Congressional campaign[edit]

On December 4, 2009 at age 68, Johnson announced he would run against Democrat incumbent Larry Kissell in North Carolina's 8th congressional district. His reasons for running included high unemployment and numerous closed factories, as well as the overall state of the country. He said, "I speak from the heart. ... this isn't the America I know." He said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led Democrats "off a cliff".[4] Johnson also criticized "big government spending" and "absence of leadership". To create jobs, he hoped to lower taxes and offer incentives. He officially filed as a candidate on February 23, 2010. Though he had less money to spend than some of his five Republican competitors, and he was new to the district, Johnson hoped to take advantage of his familiarity to TV viewers in the western part of the district, which stretches from Concord to Fayetteville.

Johnson describes himself as a "Reagan Republican". In 1986, he was asked to host a rally at Charlotte's airport during a visit by President Ronald Reagan.[2] He also has a "deep-rooted" Christian faith.[3]

On May 4, 2010, Johnson received 33 percent of the vote compared to 37 percent for Tim D'Annunzio; he then defeated D'Annunzio by 22 points in a bitterly contested runoff on June 22, 2010.[11][12]

Late polling showed Johnson within a point of Kissell, and several experts called the race a tossup. Ultimately, Kissell was reelected fairly convincingly, taking 53 percent of the vote to Johnson's 44 percent.

Electoral history[edit]

NC 8th Congressional District Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2010 [13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Harold Johnson 9,261 60.97 +21.94
Republican Tim D'Annunzio 5,928 39.03 -21.94

Later broadcast career[edit]

Johnson co-hosts a morning show on WSIC in Statesville.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Johnson lived in Statesville with his wife Linda, and they had three children. In January 2010, Johnson left Statesville after living there more than 50 years to move into a Concord condo.

He was married for 44 years before losing his wife to cancer, and now has nine grandchildren.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Harold Johnson". WSOC-TV. Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  2. ^ a b Morrill, Jim (2010-03-14). "8th District: The Big Guy's new calling: Candidate". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2010-04-22. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b c "About Harold". voteharoldjohnson.com. Archived from the original on May 6, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  4. ^ a b Morrill, Jim (2009-12-04). "Harold Johnson to challenge Kissell". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2010-04-22. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Beach Music History". Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  6. ^ a b c Washburn, Mark (2006-12-01). "Mainstay at WSOC retiring: High-octane sportscaster Johnson tells viewers he's calling a timeout". The Charlotte Observer. 
  7. ^ "World Football League". Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  8. ^ "Town of Tears". Sports Illustrated. 2000-06-17. Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  9. ^ "Sportscaster Harold Johnson Retires from WSOC-TV". WSOC-TV. 2006-11-30. Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  10. ^ Wertz, Langston (2009-02-19). "The O List: Top 5 all-time Charlotte television sportscasters". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  11. ^ Morrill, Jim (2010-05-06). "Contrasts emerge in District 8 runoff". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2010-05-06. [dead link]
  12. ^ State Board of Elections - 2nd primary election results
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ "The Morning Show with Harold Johnson". WSIC. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 

External links[edit]