My cousin, Don Baird, died last week. Don was a radio personality during the heyday of radio at the South’s most prestigious station, WSB in Atlanta. He was also a news anchor at CNN for 15 years when television was new and newsmen were, first and foremost, highly trained and experienced journalists. My favorite memories of Don include trips home to Georgia from college in Kentucky when my sister Joan and I would eagerly scan the radio dial waiting for the moment when we entered the reach of Georgia’s WSB radio station where we could hear Don giving the news in his distinctive, professional voice. Even though we loved to hear our cousin on those trips, it was not until his memorial service that I learned that he was called, “The Voice of the South.”
Four radio celebrities from the golden era of radio spoke at Don’s service and told family and friends things that we didn’t know about Don.
• Mike Kavanagh, a veteran broadcaster in Washington and New York, as well as Atlanta, is a news anchor and winner of numerous journalism awards for investigative reporting and public service awards for his work in the community. An author and financial advisor, he has hosted the popular, award-winning financial advice program, Money Matters, since 1990. Mike described Don as a multi-talented broadcaster who could take information and shape it into a news item in record time. But Mike focused on Don’s ability to make celebrities so comfortable in interviews that they would reveal themselves and provide information previously unknown to the public. Mike described a particularly memorable experience when he accompanied Don to interview Bob Hope. Don established such rapport with Hope that the two journalists were invited to spend the afternoon just hanging around with the famous Bob Hope.
• Don Kennedy was known to generations of children as “Officer Don” on the pioneering WSB-TV children’s show, The Popeye Club. Later, he operated a statewide radio network, but he is best known for the syndicated radio show, Big Band Jump, an “enormously popular” show that highlights big band era music and broadcast history for today’s audience. The minute he speaks, you know this man is a radio personality. What a voice, and what an entertainer! But at my cousin’s memorial service, he spoke of Don Baird’s voice with awe and admiration. He also told us about Don’s creativity and masterful ability to entertain a radio and television audience. He described Don’s 15-year career as a CNN news anchor during a time of journalistic integrity and professionalism.