07/10/11 — VASSIE G. BALKCUM

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Nov. 8, 1926-July 7, 2011

Vassie G. Balkcum died July 7 at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro He was 84.

A memorial service will be held at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Goldsboro today, July 10, at 2 p.m., followed by a private burial service. The family received visitors at the residence on Saturday, July 9, from 4 until 6 p.m.

Balkcum was a recognized voice in eastern North Carolina and a pioneer in North Carolina radio. He began his career in 1945 as an announcer at WGBR, a 250-watt station in Goldsboro. He soon became program director and then, in the early 1950s, general manager of WGBR and WEQR, the first FM station in southeastern N.C. He later became president and majority owner of the two stations, incorporated as Eastern Carolina Broadcasting Company.

Before choosing a career in radio, Balkcum pursued an interest in theater that won him a scholarship to UNC-Chapel Hill. After returning to Goldsboro, he became associate director of the Goldsmasquers, the local theater group. Although his acting career ended in the late 1950s, he continued to play leading roles both in his community and in broadcasting.

During a half-century in radio, Balkcum continually adapted to the ever-evolving medium. He took his AM station to 5,000 watts, broadcast tobacco auctions live from the warehouses in Wayne County, emceed the Miss Goldsboro pageant and was sportscaster for Goldsboro High School football games. He presented midday news editorials and hosted a late-night program of romantic music and poetry, Night Dreams. In the late 1940s under Balkcum's leadership, WEQR joined a group of five FM stations to form the innovative Dixie FM Network.

Balkcum served as president of the Tobacco Radio Network, on the board of the N.C. News Network and as president of the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters in 1986-87. In 1992, he received the NCAB's Distinguished Service Award and in 2004, he was inducted into the NCAB Hall of Fame.

Curtis Media Group bought WGBR-WEQR in 1989, but every day, listeners can still hear Balkcum's voice doing IDs and promos for the station he loved, WGBR.

Balkcum was a leader in his community as well, serving as president of Goldsboro Planning Commission for 10 years and as president of the Rotary Club, the Industrial Commission of 100 and the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce. He was vice chairman of the Military Affairs Commission and chairman of the board for Wayne Memorial Hospital. He also served on the board of advisers for First Citizens Bank.

Balkcum is survived by his wife of 60 years, Beatrice Kearney Balkcum; daughter Viki Balkcum and husband, Timothy Rae; and daughter, Kimberly Balkcum.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Colon Lemuel and Bessie Wallace Balkcum; two sisters, Louise Balkcum and Eloise Balkcum McManus; and three brothers, Cleve Carroll Balkcum, James Roland Balkcum and Edward Newton Balkcum.

The Balkcum family expresses deepest thanks to the staff of the Sterling House in Goldsboro for its compassionate care during the last weeks of Vassie's life; to the many health care workers at Wayne Memorial Hospital, Southeastern Medical Oncology, and Wayne Radiation Oncology; and especially to Dr. James Atkins, whose wisdom and skill accompanied us throughout Vassie's eight-year journey.

Online condolences can be sent to the family at www.seymourfuneralhome.com.


Published in Obituaries on July 10, 2011 12:38 PM