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A Brief History of WCIV

The station launched Oct. 23, 1962 as the third television outlet in Charleston.

Steve Thomas, Bill Lucas and Edwards Martin, who were all working at WSAV in Savannah, Ga., in 1962 got together and decided to move into the Charleston market since the city did not have an NBC affiliate at the time.

They spent years in a space above a hardware store above on Coleman Boulevard before building a new facility on Sullivan’s Island.

Recalling the early days of WCIV in Charleston, Thomas said many of the people would fill multiple roles by portraying characters on the programs they aired. Thomas was also known as Capt. Scotty, the weather man. Each day, he would receive the weather forecast from Percy the Pelican, who was guided to the set by someone off-camera.

The original license was granted to WTMA-TV but the call letters were later changed to WCIV before it signed-on. It took the NBC affiliation from WCBD-TV, leaving that station to become a full-time ABC affiliate. The station was originally owned by the Washington Star Company.

Cheryl Hamilton-Harlston, one of Charleston’s first black anchorwomen, said she remembers watching the creation of North Charleston in the early 70s.

“I watched it from the beginning,” she said. “Charleston was always popular for the politicians to come in.”

Hamilton said life for an anchor was much different then because they did not have Teleprompters or cue cards. The news team would pull stories off the wire service, glance down at them to understand the story and relay it directly to the audience.

But life as a black female anchor did come with challenges, Hamilton said. She recalled that there was some backlash from the city when she was brought on as an anchor.

“Some people felt I was sitting too close to a white anchor,” she said.

Hamilton said management got several complaints about the stories she covered. Most of the complainants said her stories were not local. However, she said the black community received her well.

In 1976, businessman Joseph Allbritton bought the Star and sold off the non-television assets in 1978 to form Allbritton Communications.

For 30 years, the face of investigative journalism in Charleston and at WCIV was Frank O. Hunt. He was a member of the WCIV team as a reporter and eventually as news director.

Hunt said he enjoyed digging into stories and asking questions. During his tenure, he uncovered a prostitution ring at the College of Charleston and, his most memorable story, took down a judge who had been stealing land.

“I found out this judge had converted 32 parcels of land from dead people’s estates to his own name,” Hunt said.

The investigation led to an FBI investigation, threats of bodily harm, and eventually a conviction.

Hunt said the story started with a phone call from a man upset he was losing his land.

In 1989, WCIV was almost destroyed when Hurricane Hugo thundered ashore in September of that year. The station's building on the marsh just outside of Mount Pleasant near Sullivan's Island was flooded by the storm surge. WCIV aired from temporary studios near its transmitter site for a time.

Mark Olingy was the operations manager at WCIV when Hugo hit. He said there was a watermark about four feet up the wall. Everything below that level was crusted in pluff mud, Olingy said.

Eventually, the station moved to a new building in 1991.

The station became an ABC affiliate in 1996 as part of Allbritton's affiliation deal with the network.

The station has successfully launched the careers of a number of journalists who have gone on to work in network and cable news including Joie Chen, Van Earl Wright, and Fredericka Whitfield. Many more including Dave Lucas, Monica McNeil, and Dan Potash have moved on to enjoy careers in bigger markets.

WCIV coordinates a number of popular annual community events and programs.

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