Richmond County has produced many outstanding individuals in various areas of expertise, including Ron Stutts.
His career spanned 43 years at WCHL in Chapel Hill. It broadcasts on 1360 AM with a translator/simulcast on 97.9 FM. It is the official network for UNC-Chapel Hill sports among other important outreach community-minded programs. Also, it is an affiliate of the CBS radio network and has a live stream on the internet which makes it available worldwide.
Prior to his finding a permanent home in Chapel Hill, Stutts had humble beginnings in Richmond County. He graduated from Rockingham High School with the class of 1967. Bill Futterer was going to college and that opened up a spot on the radio station young Futterer’s father owned — WAYN radio in Rockingham. It was a spot in the late afternoon until sign-off became available since Futterer was not going to be able to continue.
The station played mostly beach music at the time and Stutts auditioned, among a few others, for the job. Stutts was called and was offered the position and he jumped at the chance. He was juggling college himself while working for WAYN but discovered he absolutely loved it.
However, he needed to make more money so he also worked part time at JP Stevens, which was one of the largest textile operations at the time, for a few summers.
But his love was sitting in the control room of the studio of WAYN radio. There was something about live broadcasting he just couldn’t walk away from. And the fact his voice was perfect for radio, it all seemed to fit.
He also had short stints at other stations, WYRN Louisburg and WRNT Rocky Mount, along the way. In 1977 he landed in Chapel Hill at WCHL and, as they say, the rest is history.
Perhaps he didn’t realize it at the time but that would be his last move. Stutts quickly became the voice of UNC and made friends with many of the top athletes there doing live interviews and just being part of bringing the news and events to the public via his voice on WCHL.
Stutts was very well liked and was received with open arms by the community and quickly rose to become held in high regard as a local celebrity. He met Phil Ford at a young age, even before Ford came to Chapel Hill to play basketball. Ford and Stutts formed a relationship that is still strong today as they are very good friends. They worked on many promotions and various community activities together.
“Not only was he a legendary player, he’s one of the best people I know,” Stutts said about Ford. Stutts also interviewed and made friends with the likes of Dean Smith, Al Wood, Sam Perkins, whom he is still in touch with — as well as just about everyone you can imagine there in Chapel Hill at UNC.
On Stutts’ last day on the air, UNC head basketball coach Roy Williams called him and wished him well for his retirement.
Through the long career of 43 years Stutts had at WCHL, he interviewed many well-known sports figures, highly recognizable people of the area, organized various community events, emceed tons of events, and got to know every major player along with coaches and their staff. He became part of the structure of the Fourth of July celebration at Kenan Stadium as emcee. Stutts also hosted the Countdown to Kick Off, Hometown Heroes, Teachers First and so many other events in the community.
Stutts was a very busy man and a man about town, so to speak. He earned celebrity status there and is well-known all over. For him to walk around downtown Chapel Hill takes a while because he is stopped by so many of his fans just wanting to say hello and to thank him for everything he has done to and for the community.
I was talking to Stutts recently and I was complimenting him on his status and we were discussing the many things he has been involved in over his years. I joked and said, “Yes, that and kissing babies is what you do.” We both laughed, but I am sure you get my point.
Stutts had no idea that the job he won at WAYN radio in Rockingham would have led to a lifetime of success on the air, but it did. He met his wife Beverly and has been married for 38 years. They have a son, Zac, and a daughter, Cam. Ron and Beverly have absolutely no plans to leave Chapel Hill as it has become home for them.
Stutts has plans to continue his career — with a few differences, of course — but he can be followed and kept up with regarding what is next for him on Facebook and he can easily be found by going to his website www.ronstutts.com.
He has many things in the works and one he is involved with is co-host of Third Wheel Media in Durham, which is loosely scripted and broadcast in multiple states. He is also going to utilize his voice in doing some voiceover work, among many other things.
I asked my friend Ron how it felt to be retired and he answered, “Well, I am still pretty busy but I really like staying up later at night and sleeping in a little in the mornings.”
His day started at 4:20 a.m. and oftentimes there were many community activities that he attended after his radio show, so almost every day of his life was planned out with a full schedule.
So now he is setting his own schedule, but starting at 4:20 a.m. will not be part of the plan anymore. Stutts, with his golden velvety voice and his wonderfully warm personality, has taken him down a very successful career path starting at WAYN in Rockingham.
Richmond County should be very proud of Ron Stutts and if there was or ever will be a “Hall of Fame” for radio, here I would vote for my friend Ron. How about you?
During my last conversation with Stutts, he told me he is completely blown away by all of the letters, phone calls, messages, media contacts on Facebook and emails he has received since the announcement of his retirement from WCHL.
I want to let it be known he is very touched by this outpouring of recognition and extremely appreciative to all. The realization of what people have shown him of their appreciation for his service and professional skills for his contribution to the area is overwhelming. He might not have expected it but I certainly did.