James Wright

James Wright, host of Monday Morning Classics, began in radio as a teenager in his home town of Asheville, NC hosting a high school show on a local station. By age 17 he was employed full-time as an announcer at the NBC outlet. By the time he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill he had worked for five stations in the two Carolinas.

Following college, Jim spent the next eight years as a jet fighter pilot flying the F-86 and the F-104 Starfighter. Five of those years were on active duty with the Air Force and three were with the Tennessee Air National Guard. While in the air guard he worked as a writer-reporter for the NBC television station in Knoxville.

In June of 1961, Soviet Premier Khrushchev issued an ultimatum to President Kennedy that the Soviet Union would sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany thus ending the existing four-power agreements guaranteeing American, British, and French rights to access West Berlin. He set a deadline of December 31st. By October the situation had reached a crisis stage. East Germans began building the Berlin Wall. President Kennedy called up Air National Guard fighter units. 

Jim says, “November 1st with only two weeks’ notice we were activated and by mid-month deployed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. By March, Khrushchev had ratcheted down his threats. We returned home in June 1962 but without two of our pilots lost in a midair collision and a third lost in a takeoff accident.”

Returning home Jim was offered a job at WSM-TV Nashville. He took the job but before moving to Nashville, decided to try Washington DC, where he was hired as a reporter by CBS Channel 9 and its all-news radio station WTOP.

Two years later, with the airlines coming off of a hiring freeze, he went to work as a pilot for Pan Am in New York. That job lasted 21 years until 1986 when United Airlines bought parts of Pan Am. Jim says, "When United bought Pan Am's Pacific Division, they bought me." He spent the next eight years flying United's international routes.

Jim says, "I am listed as having been with WMNR since 1982. That is sort of true, but many of those years I was nowhere near the station having been based with the airlines, not only in New York, but also Miami, Washington, San Francisco, and Honolulu. Even now I split the year between Connecticut and Florida. I do not permanently host a time slot. What I really am is the longest running fill-in broadcaster the station has had."


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