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Joe Pinner ’57 still has a deep, resonant voice, even after decades of constantly using it as a broadcaster.
Lately, he’s been allowing it to rest. Pinner recently retired, at least officially, but he’s still putting his vocal cords to work occasionally emceeing events and attending other engagements around his adopted hometown of West Columbia, S.C., where the New Bern native has lived while broadcasting with WIS-TV since the early 1960s.
“Broadcasters do not retire from talking,” said Pinner, who will still show up on air occasionally, too.
Talking has been Pinner’s bread and butter during his entire career, 55 years of which he spent at WIS, serving as a news anchor and weatherman as well as a kids’ variety show host, often on air when viewers were waking up for breakfast and settling down to dinner. “You did it all back in those days,” Pinner said.
Pinner was eager to get to work early on. He attended UNC for a year and worked at WCHL before leaving for a full-time radio job. “Radio was my first love because you could get so personal with it,” Pinner said.
He returned to a Morehead City station where he had launched his career in high school (“I haven’t stopped talking since,” he once told a South Carolina newspaper). He took a broadcasting job in Jacksonville, Fla., then moved to television full time when he started at WIS in 1963.
Pinner also hosted the Knozit show for children for 37 years, winning a Peabody Award in 1967. He and his wife, Peggy, estimated 125,000 children appeared during the run of the live broadcast, and almost daily someone greets “Mr. Knozit” to say he or she was on it. Before Pinner retired, West Columbia gave the man who also became known by viewers as “Papa Joe” the key to the city for being a local institution through broadcasting and serving community groups.
Though Pinner has marveled at and adapted to the technological changes that have swept his industry — with black-and-white images supplanted by color and the latest transformations to digital and streaming transmission — when he looks back on his career, what he remembers most fondly isn’t the technology. He was fascinated by the interesting people he met, from State Fair visitors to such celebrities as jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and violinist Isaac Stern.
“It’s been the most incredible journey,” he told The State newspaper. But the man who has been talking for a living since he was a teenager said his epitaph should read, “He Finally Took A Cue,” meaning “I finally shut my mouth.”
— Beth Hatcher ’02
A WIS tribute includes clips from Pinner’s career, bit.ly/WIS-Pinner-retirement.