JULE McGEE STORY Continued...
JULE LEARNS HIS ABC’s
JULE McGEE IN THE MID 1960s
“Tampa in 1966 was a different place,” Jule reflects. “I could remember when my father brought me to Tampa as a kid you could see guys in long black coats riding around protecting their mafia bosses. Then I came to work here. The guys in black coats were gone….we were all just great friends.”
Jule and Millie settled in Largo in one of those new-fangled "All-Electric Medallion" homes with built-in appliances. From there, it was a half-hour drive south to Channel 10's original studio at 2426 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, where Jule began his stint as a street reporter, film processor and editor.
WLCY (later WTSP) had just begun serving Tampa Bay as an ABC affiliate. The news department was miniscule compared with the powerhouse stations WTVT and WFLA across the bay. In addition to being news director, Marshall Cleaver anchored the news, while Jules' compadres included assignment editor Bill David, Tampa reporter Herb Hunt (AKA 'Johnny Rebel' on WLCY Radio), Clearwater correspondent Phil Hunter, Vince Meloy on sports and Dick Crippen and Karol Kelly in weather. Jule became fast friends with Crippen and Meloy, as well as many others outside the broadcasting arena who would serve to prop him up whenever his confidence flagged.
|In the mix-sixties, Tampa Bay journalism was conducted in a more casual manner. Members of the press were operating in a smaller fishbowl and often rubbed elbows with politicians and civic leaders. While covering St. Petersburg City Hall, Jule befriended then-Mayor Herman Goldner…"the most wonderful, liberal Republican I ever met...he was like a father to me." Little did Jule know that Goldner would soon be called upon to help bail Jule out of a problem with WLCY.|
ST. PETERSBURG MAYOR HERMAN GOLDNER (1963)
Towards the end of 1966 WLCY was experiencing a great number of people jumping ship for more fertile transmission towers. Management under the Rahall family required all employees who wanted to remain at the station to sign non-compete contracts, agreeing that if they left WLCY, it was verboten for them to work at another television station within a 50-mile radius for one year. Those types of agreements were rare in the Tampa television market of the sixties and legally suspect. Jule liked his co-workers but grew increasingly resentful of the station's management who required him to work every other weekend while refusing to pay overtime.
BOUND FOR BIG 13
COMPETITORS BUT COLLEAGUES
Across the bay, WTVT's Pinellas County reporter, Charles Allen, was promoted to assignment editor in late 1966, serving out of the station's Color Communications Center at the Tampa studio. Allen and another Channel 13 reporter, Clearwater correspondent Chip Collins, had become familiar with McGee and were impressed with his work ethic. They recommended him to news director Ray Dantzler who offered him Allen’s old job. Jule gave notice at WLCY and took the job replacing Allen in Pinellas.
(Left) - Charles Allen in the Color Communications Center
Jule, who was used to reporting the news, not making it, got the shock of his life soon after. “One day my wife looked at a newspaper account of my job change and said 'Good Lord, we are being sued!' I went flying down to Mayor Goldner’s office, seeking his legal advice. He told me the Channel 10 non-compete wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. I called WTVT and the general manager, Gene Dodson, had already called Goldner. Luckily for me, Goldner was still a practicing lawyer while he was the mayor and took the case.
“I’ll never forget. Channel 10’s attorney’s showed up at a hearing for a temporary restraining order. They had no idea who my attorney was since Goldner’s clerk had done all the paperwork and made all the contacts. When the judge asked them to state their case, they used the argument that I was like an anchor or something. They likened me to a dry cleaning salesman who had a route and then went to work for another company and took all the business away.”
“The judge asked: ‘Tell me how this man who never appears on TV could hurt you by leaving your station?’ They couldn’t prove I was a personality who had built a following. Then Goldner showed up, stood before the judge and asked him to dismiss the case for lack of any basis to impose a restraining order. Hah! That was the end of WLCY pursuing the whole thing.”