From Delano to Dexter: WSFA debuts new home

Updated: Mar. 30, 2020 at 6:12 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - By now, you’ve probably noticed that things look a little different as WSFA 12 News settles into its new home in downtown Montgomery.

We officially launched newscasts over the weekend from our new headquarters on the 7th floor of the old judicial building complex on Dexter Avenue. It was a big and busy weekend for WSFA’s staff.

It’s a new chapter at Channel 12, but not before looking back on the last 65 years from our original home at 12 East Delano Avenue.

The last newscast faded to black Friday at 11 p.m., a final goodbye. And what a ride it’s been.

We spoke with several people about the changes, including Kim Davis. She was the first African-American female noon anchor at WSFA back in the 1980s.

″I was probably 24-years-old," she recently recalled as she looked at an old WSFA 12 News team photo during her tenure.

Fresh out of college, Davis knew she had joined “‘the leading news team” in the area.

“Loved every single minute of it. Couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing and loved telling the community what was going on," Davis explained.

So did Eileen Jones, WSFA’s political reporter for 18 years.

“Viewers used to come up to me and say how much they enjoyed Channel 12, and one of the things they said was you all seem like you’re family. And we were, and we were really close,” said Jones, who retired from WSFA around eight years ago.

Our move to 445 Dexter didn’t happen overnight. We got the announcement in October 2017. There were hurdles to plow through, some seemingly too much to overcome..

“There were many hands that went into the design," said WSFA Chief Engineer Morris Pollock.

It was his steady hand that made it all work, along with team members like Steve Khon, David Bradley and Brian Vanderwoude. Pollock remembers the toughest challenge.

“Being in the center and being able to answer all the questions around me," he explained.

The station then took a major public step toward the move with the new WSFA signs being raised to the top of the building last fall. That’s when it became all too real for former anchor Kim Hendrix.

“I swelled with pride when I saw the WSFA sign go up in downtown Montgomery," she admitted. “This station is a huge part of Alabama’s history.”

The history of covering 65 years starts with names like Frank, Carl, Bob and Kim, and those behind the scenes such as Vic Irving.

“I was thinking just other day, everyone who works at WSFA makes up WSFA," said anchor Valorie Lawson, herself a 25-year veteran of the news business.

“And this building has served us well, a lot of high ceilings and large studios," added co-anchor Mark Bullock.

And a lot of history; Robert F. Kennedy once stood on the front steps when he visited Montgomery during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

“We did a 30-minute special on that. I talked with foot soldiers," Lawson remembered.

“The life and death of George Wallace, the 10 Commandments," Kim Hendrix added while thinking back.

Along with the good times were the tragedies that connected us all.

″The hardest memory was the Enterprise tornado," Hendrix said. Nine lives were taken.

There is one part of the old WSFA facility no one will really miss. The stairs, a primary route from the newsroom to the studio. They were steep and somewhat narrow.

‘Oh the stairs! I can’t count how many times I’ve gone up and down the stairs," Lawson laughed. “I should have legs by now.”

“I’m shocked I never fell down," Hendrix added!

And so, here we are in a new home with modern-day technology brought about with at least 20 to 30 miles of cables connecting computers, monitors and other critical systems. It’s all new, all thoroughly modern for the 21 Century.

About 30 minutes before Saturday night’s launch, there was a pep talk from WSFA 12 News Operations Manager Jeff Harrison.

And then a prayer.

“This [station] was assembled for a time such as this. prayed WSFA 12 News Chief Photojournalist and local church pastor Andre Morgan. “Father Lord, we just thank you.”

With minutes ticking away before the debut, one last check on the scripts and then there was the moment of truth. Que the music. It’s showtime.

“Good evening everyone, I’m Mark Bullock. And I’m Valorie Lawson,” said the anchors as they opened the first newscast Saturday night.

From Delano to Dexter, the legacy continues.

Copyright 2020 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.