Martin and Hurst are among eight legacy inductees to the 2011 class of the Georgia Radio Museum and Hall of Fame who will be honored at a sold-out ceremony tonight at the Marietta Conference Center. Among the other inductees are the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown, who also owned radio stations in the state, and legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, a Washington, Ga., native.
Martin, an announcer for WFOM in Marietta who was best known as the “voice of the Marietta Blue Devils,” and Hurst, the first play-by-play voice for the Atlanta Falcons who later served as sports director of WFOM and WYNX in Marietta, deserve to be in such company, said Rhubarb Jones, a hall of fame board member and distinguished lecturer at Kennesaw State University.
“They were chosen by the membership and the board because they are bona fide legends,” said Jones, himself a hall of fame inductee in 2007.
Hap Smith, the current voice of the Blue Devils, said that listening to Martin was a must for anyone in town. Smith recalls listening to Martin’s call of the 1966 state championship game while in the hospital.
“If you lived in Marietta in those days, everybody in town went to Marietta football games,” Smith said. “If you couldn’t go to a home game or make it to an away game, you were listening to Pepper Martin on the radio.”
But Martin, who died in 2007, wasn’t just a sports announcer. He spun records and covered news, including broadcasting from the scene of an explosion at Atherton’s Drug Store on the Marietta Square, which killed seven people on Halloween night in 1963.
“He was well-known in Marietta and well-loved,” Smith said. “He just thoroughly enjoyed being around young people.”
Hurst, who died in 1993, was known for his signature signoff, “Keep your eye on the ball,” Jones said. He broadcast high school football and basketball games in Marietta and Smyrna from 1975 until he retired in 1991.
“Jack Hurst could paint a picture with his words,” Jones said.
Broadcasters with ties to nearby counties will also be honored at tonight’s ceremony. Dick Meeder of Roswell, who died in 2006, will be honored for his work as general manager at WKLS AM and FM, as well as for helping start TrafficScan, a traffic-reporting service. Like Martin and Hurst, he too will be a legacy inductee, which is an award given only posthumously.
Byron Dobbs, who spent 40 years at WCHK in Canton, is a candidate for the hall’s Career Achievement wing.
Sirius XM Satellite Radio host Jay Thomas, known for his roles on television shows like “Cheers” and “Murphy Brown,” will emcee the event.
Jones said the ceremony will be an opportunity to celebrate some of the great radio to come out of Cobb.
“Cobb County has got to feel like we’re sitting on a ham sandwich, starving to death,” he said. “We don’t realize the greatness in this county.”
John Long is president of the Georgia radio hall of fame. The organization has plans for a permanent museum, but does not yet have the financing or a site finalized.