March 15, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - The Western Carolina Catamount athletics family was saddened Friday evening to learn of the passing of James B. "Uncle Jimmy" Childress at Mission Hospital in Asheville. Childress and the local radio station in which he helped found - WRGC-AM - has been a longtime staple of the Catamount Sports Network and pioneered broadcasts of WCU's baseball games.
The Catamounts' home baseball facility - Childress Field at Hennon Stadium - bears the Childress family name. The playing surface was named and dedicated in April of 1978 in honor of Jimmy's son, Ronnie G. Childress, who was an avid supporter of WCU athletics and a special friend of the baseball program through the radio station. Ronnie passed away at the station due to an electrical accident in 1975. Jimmy's son, Tony, was behind the play-by-play microphone for several seasons of Catamount baseball.
The Childress family established the Ronnie Childress Memorial Scholarship Fund in 1975 to benefit WCU's baseball program.
Up until his death, Childress was regularly seen - and was a crowd favorite - when attending games at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. Most recently, Jimmy wooed the home baseball crowd by singing a song in which he had written - inspired by WCU's new leadership in David and Susan Belcher - entitled "Cullowhee."
"Uncle Jimmy" Childress, who would have been 90 on his next birthday in June, along with Harold Thomas of Asheville started the radio station, which first aired Nov. 8, 1957, using the call letters WMSJ. The station took the responsibility of being Jackson County's only full-service radio station seriously. The station's call letters changed from WMSJ to WRGC in the 1970s to reflect the initials of Ronnie G. Childress.
Childress, who was very active in the Sylva Rotary Club, sold the station rights to Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting Co., LLC in January of 2002 after a 44-year run as the locally-owned and operated community radio station.
Western Carolina athletics would like to relay its condolences to the Childress family. WCU plans a moment of silence before Saturday's doubleheader against the Rider Broncs at the field which bears his family name.