Some people refer to longtime radio host and news announcer Mike Edwards, of Tyler, as “the voice of East Texas.”
He was named East Texas Radio Personality of the Year in 1992 and again in 1993 by the East Texas Arts and Entertainment Council.
Similarly, he was billed as “a well-known Tyler radio personality” when he spoke on prayer at a brunch of the Texas–Oklahoma Division of Kiwanis International.
A listener once told Edwards that her family had a radio on the table where they ate breakfast as the children prepared for school and he was there each morning with them. She said they considered him to be part of their family.
Edwards remembers the time he answered the studio telephone line to find a young man on the other end whose wife had just died and who wanted someone to talk to. Edwards visited and prayed with him and they became friends.
Occasionally, strangers familiar with the sound of his voice on the radio walk up to Edwards in unexpected places and ask if he is Mike Edwards. Surprisingly, it happened when Edwards was on a cruise in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and a Tyler banker he did not know who was also on the cruise overheard him talking.
Edwards shrugs off being well known and said he does not think of himself as a radio personality. Instead, he said, “I’m just a hardworking stiff that happens to be in a higher profile job than other folks.”
Including his part-time work, Edwards had a career in media for 57 years until his recent retirement, working mostly in radio, except for two short stints in television.
A fixture at Radio Station KTBB-AM in Tyler, where he worked about 42 years, he led its news staff to win many major state and national awards for news coverage.
Edwards grew up in Channelview near Houston. In high school, he took a public speaking class upon the suggestion of a teacher.
That led to Edwards presenting narrations at school band musicals, winning UIL speaking contests and speaking before service clubs and organizations while still in high school. “That helped me,” Edwards recalls.
After graduating from high school, he wanted to attend San Jacinto College in Pasadena, but did not have the money. He started working for the U.S. Postal Service, casing mail for carriers, and eventually got a long walking route.
One day Edwards happened to spot a newspaper ad for the now defunct Academy of Radio in Houston, which set him on a different lifelong course.
“I became a student there and then started some part-time radio work on the weekends while going to the academy. I later resigned from the Post Office and went into radio full time,” Edwards said.
He added, “I don’t know what made me go to the academy. I had done a lot of public speaking and I thought this might work. The more I got into it, it’s infectious. It’s contagious. I liked it. I found it fascinating.”
Looking back, Edwards said he also learned a lot on the job and by attending United Press International seminars and workshops. He was a stringer for UPI and for The Dallas Morning News.
Edwards moved around the state to larger markets.
His first full-time job was in Liberty. He recalls that the station was “out in the middle of a cow pasture.” One day when the air conditioning was not working well, Edwards opened a window and read a story on air from Washington just as he heard a cow moo, which the mic picked up.
In the morning, Edwards played Frank Sinatra and Doris Day songs and for the afternoon show, he assumed his cousin’s name and played rock music.
“That’s how I got started,” Edwards said.
After Liberty, Edwards became a disc jockey for KHUL-FM in Houston, later went to KBRZ in Freeport and then became news director at KTEM-AM in Temple. Next, Edwards ventured into television in Corpus Christi, serving as sports director and churning out feature stories.
But in 1974, the late Don Chaney, who Edwards had gotten to know in Temple, invited him to come to KTBB-AM in Tyler as news director. His first stint at KTBB lasted until 1982, when he went to work at KLTV in Tyler as assistant news director. About 18 months later, Edwards came back to KTBB in 1983 for the remainder of his long career.
For various reasons, Edwards felt destined to end up in Tyler.
Several months after moving to Tyler, Edwards and his wife, Jo Anne McMeans, decided to take root because they found that the people were friendly, they liked the climate and the area and they felt that Tyler public schools prepared their four children for college. “We have loved it here,” Edwards said. Twice he was offered opportunities to move away, but stayed.
Edwards filled various positions at KTBB, including news director, program director or morning or afternoon host. He hosted the morning show of music and news in 1977 and a year later it became a news-talk show. For his last three years at KTBB, Edwards hosted the “Drive at Five” show from 5 to 6 p.m.
Showing his humor, Edwards quipped, “I did everything, (but) I didn’t do the windows because they are a pane.”
Edwards liked television and radio.
He said radio is “fast paced and the theater of the mind. You can paint a verbal picture and everybody out there in their mind’s eye is picturing it.”
Television, Edwards said, “is completely different. When I was doing it in Corpus Christi, I got good, very fast at splicing and editing tape together. When I came to KLTV, it was all digital and we did it all electronically.”
Edwards also saw many changes during his long tenure in radio. When he started, advertising agencies sent commercials on 78 rpm vinyl discs and later records. He had three turntables.
Then suddenly the radio business went from records to cartridges and show hosts had a cartridge machine for commercials with three, four or five decks to intersperse. Now, it is all done with computers, Edwards said, with one screen for commercials, a screen for news, sports and weather, and another screen for the internet.
Having passed up the opportunity to learn to type in school, Edwards learned on the job to type his newscasts in advance. He said, “I use the Columbus typing system … I search for a key and discover it. In a serious vein, I learned to type through trial and error. I got up to 75 mistakes a minute.”
While working in the Houston-Pasadena area, Edwards covered some live shuttle launches, met astronauts and a lot of country artists, such as actor Lorne Greene and singer Loretta Lynn. A scrapbook of his mementoes contains a handwritten post card from Loretta. He also had contacts with governors, lieutenant governors and other prominent people. He has a picture of himself with “Papa Bush”
Edwards served as president of the United Press International Broadcasters Association of Texas in 1976, after two years as regional vice president.
With Edwards as news director, the KTBB staff won more state and national news awards than any other station in Northeast Texas, including the 1978 National Headliners Club award for consistently outstanding radio reporting in cities under 250,000 population.
Edwards was honored for distinguished achievement in broadcast journalism in competition of the Radio Television News Director’s Association in cooperation with the School of Journalism at Pennsylvania State University. Edwards received the 1997 Eastern District 5 Media Award from the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association.
KTBB also won awards under Edward’s leadership for best local newscast, best local spot announcement, second place for best creative news coverage, best community discussion program, best humorous spot announcement, best local station promotional spot announcement and more.
Edwards’ coverage of several proceedings in the 7th District Court prompted then Judge Donald Carroll to send a letter in 1979 to his boss commending Edwards for factual coverage, an uncanny ability to avoid editorializing, for diligence in pursuing a lead without being obnoxious or overbearing and for the highest degree of professionalism.
A reference letter from the news director Edwards worked for in Corpus Christi said Edwards has attributes that would make him an invaluable asset to any radio or television news operation, including good on-the-air abilities, the ability to assemble and produce his own shows, good writing and reporting and the capability to put together a newscast or sportscast.
Besides being busy at KTBB for years, Edwards has been active in the community.
He is a past member of the Citizens Committee for Community Improvement in Corpus Christi and a past board member of Breckenridge Village in Tyler, the Arc of Tyler/Smith County, East Texas State Fair Association, Seniors College at Tyler Junior College and a past president of Goodwill Industries of East Texas in Tyler.
Edwards judged a past Miss Black-Eyed Pea Pageant and the Noonday Sweet Onion Festival. He was master of ceremonies for numerous events, such as a Beta Sigma Phi Sorority valentine dance, the 1991 Tyler Junior College Shrine Bowl banquet, the 1994 Miss Athens Pageant and others.
The first year the United Way of Smith County set a million dollar goal, Edwards played the role of Super Man, who was supposedly kidnapped and held for a million dollar ransom.
In 2000, Edwards received the Hero for Children Award from the State Board of Education and the School Bell Award from Smith County Retired Teachers Association. He was named one of 120 Heroes of Tyler Independent School District in 2002.
Presently, Edwards is a member of Sylvania Baptist Church and a former deacon body chairman and former vice president of Colonial Hills Baptist Church, where he served as Sunday school superintendent.