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Jim Thacker.jpg

In the early years of local television, it was common for on-air people to do live commercials for a program’s sponsor. Here, popular WSAZ-TV sports director Jim Thacker tells his viewers all about Wiedemann’s beer.

Editor’s Note: This is the 383rd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.

HUNTINGTON — Born in Chicago, Jim Thacker grew up in Henderson, Kentucky. There he got his first job as a radio announcer at the tender age of 15. He later broadcast schoolboy sports in Kentucky, then came to Huntington in the early 1950s. He first worked at radio station WPLH, but then switched to WSAZ in order to break into a new medium — television.

He broadcast Marshall University football and basketball games and did two daily sports reports (at 6 and 11 p.m.) on WSAZ-TV.

Thacker left Huntington in 1967 to help usher in the era of televised Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) basketball. From 1968 through 1981, Thacker was sports anchor for WBTV in Charlotte.

In the 1970s, he joined with college basketball analyst Billy Packer to form the popular “Thacker and Packer” broadcast duo for ACC games.

After his days at the ACC and WBTV, Thacker did freelance work for CBS sports, broadcasting a wide range of sporting events, including Sun Belt basketball games, the NCAA basketball tournament, ESPN college football, NASCAR, the Masters and other golf tournaments.

The 64-year-old Thacker died in 1992 after suffering a stroke.

The legendary Bos Johnson was the news director at WSAZ-TV when Thacker was the station’s sports director. Remembering his late friend and former co-worker, Johnson hailed Thacker as “a consummate professional. He had a really quick mind and a great voice, and he knew sports. That’s an unbeatable combination.”

“But what I really respected most about Jim,” Johnson said, “is that he never got in the way of the game. The game was the important thing. Not his personality or his views.”

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