WSIL Channel 22

Jim Cox - Man of the Hour


A reward that I get from working on this website is the opportunity to correspond with the local celebrities who made it all happen.  One such personality, Mr. Jim Cox, allowed my family and me to visit him at the KEZK studios in St. Louis, where he currently works as news director and morning anchor.  My wife and children enjoyed the visit as much as I did, and Jim was a gracious host.  We not only toured the radio station, but we were treated to some hands-on training as Jim showed us how interviews were conducted in the state-of-the-art production room.  My children, ages 7, 5, and 2 were "interviewed" by the man himself, and were able to hear themselves as the tape was played back for them.  We were given some actual news stories to share during "show and tell" time and each of the kids received an autographed picture. Jim also told us of his beginnings in radio, and later granted me an interview via it is:

 Where were you born and raised? 

I was born in Marion, my family moved to Pueblo, CO in 1940 because my father had relatives out there who said employment opportunities were greater there than in southern Illinois.  We moved back to Marion in 1948.  I moved to Johnston City in 1950 and  graduated from JCHS in 1954.

When did you become interested in a radio/communications career? 

I was working my way through SIU at Carbondale as a night time janitor at a building downtown.  A housemate who was a year ahead of me worked at a radio station in Murphysboro.  On school holidays I would hang out with him until 5:00 when I had to start cleaning the building.  Finally, in 1956, I realized he had a better way of attending college, and I decided that if he could work in radio, so could I.  After visiting several radio stations within a few miles of Carbondale over about a 6 month period, I finally was hired at WGGH in Marion in April of 1957.

I will add here that Jim told me about the "never give up" attitude he had when he was searching for a radio job.  He was asked about his experience in radio when visiting one of the stations one day.  Remarking that he had none, he also asked how he would get any experience if that particular station wouldn't give him a "shot".   Some advice was given to him.......go home and practice reading.  In the days before cassette recorders, those aspiring to be in the radio business had to practice reading and "train" their voice. Since they couldn't offer a recorded tape to would-be employers, they would have to read and "audition" live for a radio station owner to take them seriously.  Jim DID practice, going into a quiet room and practicing in the corner with his hand up to his ear to hear his voice...for an hour at a time!  He also visited that station, WGGH, every two weeks as he just "happened" to be in the area.  His persistence paid off....and as you read above, he was hired


What was your educational experience before coming to WSIL? 

 I was still attending SIU as a speech major with an English minor on a parttime basis, having gotten married in 1959, and decided to give TV a try.  I started there in December of 1961.


While at WSIL, what were your responsibilities?   

 At a small station, an employee does just about everything except sweep the floors.  I wrote commercials and recorded them. I anchored the 10:00 P.M. news, and serviced some accounts. My favorite job was hosting "The Hour," an hour-long variety/interview program five says a week.

I'm sure most people remember some of the famous people you interviewed on "The Hour".  Tell about some of the more memorable guests.

I interviewed Jane Fonda during the 1972 Presidential election when she was campaigning for George McGovern.  I don't think she had been to Hanoi yet. She was scheduled to make a speech at SIU, and they called to see if I would like to interview her.  Of course I said yes. She had been on the speaking tour for a few weeks and was very hoarse, so I offered her some tea.  She gratefully accepted.
When we were on the air, she was calling President Nixon a murderer and all sorts of off-the-wall names, almost as if she had memorized a script (maybe written by acivist Tom Hayden, although I don't remember if they actually were married at the time.)
During commercial breaks we chatted about our kids, and other simple things.  It was a big deal for little old Harrisburg, and the local newspaper editor and photographer were there.  It was a big deal for little old Jimmy Cox from Johnston City, too.

and a little less controversial guest on "The Hour", Phyllis Diller!

One of the joys of hosting The Hour was the opportunity to interview celebrities when they would appear at the Du Quoin State Fair.  Probably the funniest interview was with Phyllis Diller in 1964. The closest top hotel at the time was the Holiday Inn in Carbondale. We set the camera up poolside about 10:30 in the morning and she came down in the rattiest old housecoat you can imagine, with her hair in curlers and hair net over her hair and another over her face and charmed us all.

When did you leave WSIL and what have you done since leaving?

I left in 1974, worked for the National Federation of Independent Business, a lobbying organization for small businesses, worked for B.H. & O. Chevrolet as advertising manager and in sales for about a year, which was WORK, and decided it was time to get back into broadcasting.  That's when I came to St. Louis.  I have been here in radio and tv since July of 1980, and my years at WSIL provided a great training ground for success in this major market.

Do you keep in touch with any of your WSIL colleagues?

Yes, mostly by e-mail, but sometimes by phone.  I keep in touch with Bill Plater, Robert Unsell, and Bill Salus.  My old friend Lucky Leroy died about a year ago.

Tell about your family and what you're up to these days.

I have 3 children.  Kevin has a doctorate  in music from the University of Illinois and is a clarinet professor and Director of Bands at Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis. Cammy has a bachelor's in Psychology from SIU-Carbondale, and teaches and counsels at the Job Corps in southern Illinois.  She's married with two sons.  Kara has a bachelor's in radio and tv from SIU and is on radio and tv in Chicago.  She also is married, but no kids, yet.

I came to St. Louis in 1980 and have worked in radio and tv, as well as being very active in the "free-lance" industry in the '80s. Currently, I am the News Director and morning anchor at what we call "Soft-Rock, 102.5, KEZK. 

Jim and his wife Carla live in St. Louis. Many thanks to Jim for his help with this website.  Many thanks for his stories, his kindness, and friendship.