Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS - It looked and felt a lot like a family reunion inside the WWL-TV studios Monday, with good reason. The man in the center of the room, former Channel 4 general manager J. Michael Early has been called a father figure by many, along with mentor, innovator and broadcasting industry giant.
On Monday, he returned to the station he led for a remarkable 37 years, for the unveiling of a specially-commissioned portrait which will be on display in the WWL-TV lobby on N.
Rampart Street, once multi-million dollar renovations to the building are complete.
Mr. Early, now 97, was joined at the unveiling ceremony by all ten of his children, many of his 30 grandchildren, and dozens of the Channel 4 employees and former employees who give him and his team the credit for building WWL into a broadcasting powerhouse.
At Monday’s event, he was lauded by current company executives as a man of leadership and vision, but also humility and dedication to helping his employees be the best.
“When you ask people what Mr. Early was like ‘back in the day,’ you will be told over and over that he wasn’t just a General Manager. He was a teacher, mentor and friend to everyone he worked with,” said Dunia Shive, president and chief executive officer of Belo, WWL-TV's parent company, which purchased Channel 4 from Mr. Early’s employee-led and locally-owned Rampart Operating Partnership in 1994.
Shive was joined at Monday’s ceremony by Robert Decherd, Belo chairman of the board, who was chief executive officer when the company purchased WWL from Rampart Operating Partnership in 1994.