It's hard to believe I've been away from 7News and all of you in Southwest Louisiana since the Fall of 1999.
For more than 19 years the Lake Charles community was home. My son, David, grew up there and graduated from Sulphur High School. My daughter, Teressa, was born in West Cal Cam Hospital and graduated from LSU. My wife, Kathy, and I have many friends and a lot of great memories of our time there.
Many of my memories, of course, revolve around KPLC TV. When I started at the station in 1980 I was 28 years old. I was hired to be the News Director ... working behind the scenes. But, within a month, I was anchoring the 6 & 10 o'clock newscasts and I continued to be the News Director and anchorman for almost 20 years.
Of course, during most of that time, the person at my side on the anchor desk was Cynthia Arceneaux. We worked so many newscasts and elections together we could sense when the other person was about to speak. I thought we made a great team. You are lucky to have Cynthia presenting the news today.
So what were the big stories I covered in and around Lake Charles? It's hard to narrow them down to a top five but here's my list.
1. Boeing locates at Chennault. This was a tremendous story for the community. At the time it was just the economic boost needed.
2. Edwin Edwards on Trial in the 1980's. He was a flamboyant, very popular and on trial in the Federal Court in New Orleans. It was the first time we used the new satellite technology on a daily basis allowing us to have live coverage from across the state.
3. 1990 National Guard troops move out to Iraq. Our live coverage of the troops moving our from the Armory and their families waving good bye is something I will never forget.
4. Casinos come to Lake Charles. This was another economic story ... but a social one as well. It's story still unfolding today.
5. Mardi Gras. Every Fat Tuesday we would send all our reporters and photographers to Mamou, Iowa and all points in between to record the chicken runs and parades. It was great fun and some of the best work we would do all year.
I left KPLC in September of 1999 to accept a promotion within the Liberty Corporation ... the company that owns KPLC TV. I became the General Manager of their ABC television station in Wilmington, North Carolina. Most of my work was behind the scenes at the station although I occasionally get in front of the camera.
My wife and I make it back to Louisiana quite often and it's always great fun to have someone come up to me and say, "Didn't you used to be James Smith?"
It's nice to be remembered.
Congratulations to KPLC TV for 50 years of service. I'm proud to have been a part of it.
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