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Huntington's Jim Thornton realizes lifelong dream on 'Wheel of Fortune'

Jun. 15, 2011 @ 11:10 PM

The fulfillment of a lifelong dream, Huntington native Jim Thornton has been named the new announcer of "Wheel of Fortune."

"I've always wanted to do this," Thornton said. "It is exciting, it almost doesn't seem real."

Though the decision was made in March, the official announcement was not made until Monday. Thornton will begin taping shows July 14, with the 29th season premiering Sept. 19. Thornton replaces Charlie O'Donnell, who passed away last November.

"We are delighted to welcome Jim Thornton into the 'Wheel of Fortune' family," the show's executive producer, Harry Friedman, said in a statement. "Jim's rich, friendly voice and engaging personality are a great fit for our show and its tradition," he said.

Thornton had several stints as a guest announcer last season.

"They wanted to see me in action doing everything and they kept upping the ante," he said. "In December I did some recording. Then I did several rounds of shows. But the last time in March, I did everything, the warm-up and all the shows," Thornton said.

Though he knows he has big shoes to fill, Thornton said the main thing for him is to just have fun.

"I look at it like I'm talking to my next door neighbor and you can't believe what you just got in your mailbox," he said. "I just plug into that.

"The main thing for me is to have fun. The more fun you have the better it sounds," Thornton said. "What could be better? It's like enforced fun."

Thornton will be giving up his current job as the host of the afternoon drive newscast on KNX 1070 in Los Angeles, but he still plans to fill in when he can.

"It's going to be a big change," Thornton said. "I'm so used to working every day all the time. This is a more open schedule with crazy bursts of activity.

"When I'm working, I'll be working really intensely. But I'll have more time to spend with family," he said.

In addition to spending more time with his wife, Sue, and their son, Sam, Thornton plans to work more with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. His son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2009.

Thornton is quick to thank all of his friends in his hometown for all of their prayers and support while he waited for the show to make its decision.

"It's a reflection of all of us in Huntington," he said. "I promise I'll do my best to make them proud. I feel very connected to Huntington and always have. Maybe I scored a little something for the home team."