WSB’s Capt. Herb Emory passes away

When he heard a two-vehicle crash Saturday afternoon not far from his home, Emory called 911 and did something that colleagues and friends said was natural to him: He helped

Published April 12, 2014

Every morning and afternoon, millions of WSB listeners and viewers have relied on Capt. Herb Emory to help them navigate Atlanta’s roadways. His voice -- that unmistakably chipper voice -- guided frustrated commuters through traffic mayhem.

When he heard a two-vehicle crash Saturday afternoon not far from his South Burnt Hickory Road home, Emory called 911 and did something that colleagues and friends said was natural to him.

He helped.

It turned out to be his last act of kindness.

Emory, who collapsed after he sprang into action, died at 3:30 p.m. Saturday of a massive heart attack, Douglas County coroner Randy Daniel said. He was 61.

"That was Herb Emory," Douglas County Commission Chairman Tom Worthan said. "Always serving his community."

A native of Brevard, N.C., Emory caught the radio bug as a sixth-grader.

According to his bio on WSB’s website, a bowling alley was adjacent to the town’s 1000-watt radio station. He hung around and bugged the staffers at WPNF until they gave him a part-time job emptying trash, sweeping floors and sorting Associated Press copy.

After he graduated high school, he moved to Atlanta to attend the Atlanta School of Broadcasting and National School of Broadcasting.

His first assignment in the Atlanta School of Broadcasting was at WIIN 97.

Prior to landing at AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB and Channel 2 Action News in 1991, Emory made stops at WSNE (Cumming), WDGL (Douglasville), WFOM (Marietta), WACX (Austell), Georgia Network News and WQXI/94-Q/Star 94.

Emory kept an eagle eye trained on Atlanta's interstates during the week from his helicopter, which he called "the best office in town." He hosted special traffic and NASCAR broadcast programs with his wife Karen. He received the inaugural Excellence in Motorsports Journalism Award in 2012. Emory's last tweet Saturday was about NASCAR.

Working both the morning and afternoon rush-hour shifts to shepherd Atlanta's harried masses safely to and from work "felt like going to work 10 times a week," Emory said in his bio. But that was the lone drawback to a job he otherwise loved.

Clark Howard hosted a special broadcast Saturday evening dedicated to sharing memories of Emory, who was inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in 2008. Colleague Scott Slade called in to praise his close friend, who he said advanced traffic reporting and public service to an art form. Emory deserved to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, Slade said.

"I never saw him tire, I never saw him despondent, at least publicly," he said. "He's had personal tragedies in his life along the way, losing his son and so many other things. He always came back with the idea of being a public servant."

Emory served on the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame Board of Directors and on the Friends of Sweetwater Creek State Park Board of Directors. He is also a member of the Douglas County Animal Control Advisory Board.

Emory recently hosted a luncheon for about 50 traffic reporting volunteers in the WSB headquarters cafeteria.

"He made sure everyone in that room left with a prize," said Condace Pressley, the radio station's assistant program director. "A small way to thank them for what they do."

She said Emory hosted more charity events than any other WSB personality by a long shot. She had asked him recently for his calendar and counted 83 personal appearances in 2013 alone. For years, he held annual Toys for Tots fundraisers.

A Roswell woman who identified herself on Saturday's special broadcast as "Kay" called in tears as she pondered how to break the news to her 8-year-old daughter that the man they relied on to avoid Ga. 400 traffic snarls would no longer be on the radio.

"If the Captain said don't go somewhere, we didn't go in that direction," she told Howard.

Neil Boortz, who joined the program later, suggested the revamped Ga. 400/I-85 overpass be named for Emory, to which Slade and Howard swiftly agreed.

"He's going to be missed by Douglas County and the whole state of Georgia," said Daniel, the county coroner who enjoyed a 40-year friendship with Emory. "He's such a talent, a good friend and a good family man. You put them three together and that's a legacy."

Staff writer Rodney Ho contributed to this report.