Q & A

Sit down with Woody Walker as he talks about the history of WFSU television and his new passion – antique radios.Woodfin ‘Woody’ WalkerShowcasing Broadcasting’s History

By Erica Bailey 

In 1939, Woodfin “Woody” Walker left his family’s farm in southern Alabama to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, which was, “a good year because it was before Pearl Harbor.”

After World War II ended, Walker stayed in the military for another 24 years and retired at 42. With two sons to send to college, Walker found his way to Tallahassee, where he started a second career at WFSU in 1968.

Primarily working on the television side, Walker served as the engineering manager until he was 75 years old. Now, in a third working incarnation, he acts as museum coordinator for WFSU’s Kirk Collection – antique radios, televisions and musical instruments mostly from the private collection donated by Florida State University alumnus and retired broadcaster Jim Kirk.

Walker is available on Wednesday mornings or by appointment to give a tour through broadcasting history using the more than 300 artifacts housed at the Public Broadcast Center, located at 1600 Red Barber Plaza on Tallahassee’s south side.

Walker recently sat down with Tallahassee Magazine writer Erica Bailey to share a bit of his past and the history of WFSU-TV.


What was it like when you started at WFSU?

We were over in Dodd Hall then. (In the 1980s) when we started looking for a space, the university architect told me to go find some decent land. I told him we didn’t want to be on campus; we needed some space. I needed a hundred parking spaces, at least. He thought it was crazy, but I found this space out here (near Innovation Park), and it’s 29 acres. Way down in the woods, in a little corner, were five Indian graves, (but) I got a working agreement with those Indians – they don’t bother me and I won’t bother them.

What was TV like back then?

When I started here, TV stayed off the air more than it stayed on the air, so I had to build practically from scratch, for Pete’s sake. We signed on at 3:30 in the afternoon, five days a week, and signed off at 10 – it was a lot of black-and-white stuff, children’s programs mostly. We did (grow) through the years – we went from that to color to high power to a 24-hour operation – and through the federal grants I was able to get ($1.9 million over his tenure), I built a decent station.

What were your responsibilities as engineering manager?

I was responsible for the on-air operation and all the maintenance of the existing equipment, plus the procurement and design and development of future systems.

Do you keep up with the new technology?

It’s not easy, but it was inevitable. I started in this business in 1939 when I got into the military; they shipped me off to tech schools, and I kept updating. Technology has changed considerably, and I’ve stayed on top of it – out of personal interest more than anything else.

How did you become involved in the Kirk Collection?

Kirk, being an alumnus from up here and an old broadcaster himself, was down in Ocala, where he collected all this stuff for all these years. We were doing some major construction out here in the atrium, and I got together with the architect and we decided (where to put) the display space. Kirk said, ‘Come on down and earmark everything that you can handle.’ We got 300 pieces of it, and I’ve got most of it on display. It’s a funny thing – broadcasting gets in your blood like newsprint does, and this is like family out here (at WFSU). They said, ‘Come out and take care of the place and give all the tours and everything’ . . . and here I am.

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