72 years on the radio -- from WWII to wayward pets

 Luther Masingill
Chattanooga's Luther Masingill is headed for the National Radio Hall of Fame after more than seven decades on the air.

(CBS News) CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - As we go "On the Road" across America, something inevitably catches our eye. This week, something caught our ear.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee there's a radio station featuring the best of the 70s, 80s, 90s -- and one golden oldie from the 20s : morning drive co-host Luther Masingill.

At the age of 90, Luther doesn't know, or care to know, the songs his station plays.

"Don't ask me to give the title," he says. "I asked the boss once, 'How about occasionally let me play a Glenn Miller?'" The answer was no.

Fortunately, this story isn't about a song. It's about a record -- a world record.

Luther was discovered in 1940 at a tire repair shop of all places. A customer came in, heard his voice over the public address system and asked him if he wanted to work in radio. Seventy-two years later, he's now been at the same station longer than any other broadcaster in history.

He reported on 9/11. And also Pearl Harbor.

Sherman's March? Well, not quite. "I didn't get around to that one," Luther laughs.

Civil War aside, he's been at the mic for just about every other big story. But it's the littlest stories that he is most known for.

For nearly his entire 72-year career, Luther has been announcing lost and found pets. He's been at it so long, in fact, today you can't throw a fetch toy in Chattanooga without hitting someone who credits Luther with finding their lost pet.

Scruffy's owner, for one.

"He takes a personal interest," the owner said. "You can tell that he actually cares."

Sarge's, for another.

"That's just like finding a part of the family and it means something to you," Sarge's owner said.

For this reason alone, Luther probably has more truly devoted listeners than any other deejay in America. There are thousands in Tennessee -- and even one in the studio.

When James Howard was nine, his dog Andy ran away.

"My mom looked at me and she said, 'James, it's going to be okay," he recalled. " I'm going to call Luther and he's going to help us find your dog,'"

Three days later, he did.

"That's what I always felt that radio was for -- to accomplish something," Luther said. "You're helping somebody."

Helping somebody: It's the opposite of what so many polarizing radio personalities aspire to nowadays, which may be why the National Radio Hall of Fame has selected Luther for induction this year.

And it's definitely why we requested an on-air dedication to Luther Masingill -- a Glenn Miller tune.

Tennessee would be lost without him.

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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.