James Wade Medlock III, 73, died Feb. 8 at Emory Hospital after a period of declining physical and mental health. A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 7, at North Decatur Presbyterian Church, 611 Medlock Road, Decatur.
Medlock set great store in family, faith, bringing people and events to life for listeners, and he had a love of the guitar.
The product of an Atlanta family tracing its roots to pre-Civil War days, Medlock was well acquainted with both music — he played guitar in two popular bands — and communications by the time he graduated from Druid Hills High School in 1964.
“He was always interested in getting the story straight and having correct information,” said cousin Tommie Lynn Nichols.
A blossoming interest in current affairs led him to college and a Bachelor’s of Journalism from Georgia State in 1972. But even before that, Medlock was in the news trenches. In 1967 he began the first of several stints at then all-news and later news-talk WGST Radio where he served in a variety of roles.
Eric Seidel, a media training company owner and former WGST general manager, said at one point, Medlock opted out of the news director’s role and its administrative demands in favor of street-reporting during the morning drive. He covered everything from prison riots to house fires to the aspiring songwriters portrayed in his long-running human interest feature “Atlanta Sidestreets.”
Particularly memorable, Seidel said, was Medlock’s live broadcast from Underground Atlanta in September of 1990, as the city received official notification it had landed the 1996 Olympics.
“As a native, he was very proud and very excited. It was a time where he could show his emotion as a reporter. The excitement in his voice was palpable,” Seidel said.
“He was a meticulous and diligent reporter,” recalled semi-retired radio reporter and podcaster Denis O’Hayer, who worked with Medlock at WGST. “He knew the questions and how to ask them and how not to be put off by spin. Without being rude, he would burrow to the heart of a story…he hated buzz-speak and jargon.”
O’Hayer said Medlock, during stints at WGST, CNN and a state radio network he co-founded, used his thorough knowledge of Atlanta to help ground non-natives in the essence of his beloved city and state.
And while in the business, Medlock helped fellow broadcasters break new ground, hiring women and people of color in an era where relatively few of them were represented in frontline on-air positions, his friends said.
His other passions were music and family.
“When I was in sixth grade I was taking a class on astronomy, “ remembered Meghan Medlock. “I was finding the material very challenging, and my dad stayed up almost all night long helping me study for this test. We had so much fun learning about red dwarves and black holes.”
Musically, Medlock’s enthusiasm knew no bounds. Taking up the pedal steel guitar in college, he played with the Atlanta Open Band and other groups for years, as well as founding a monthly country music jam in 2004, which assembled a bevy of guitarists, fiddlers, banjo and even ukulele players for laughter-filled round-robin sessions.
Along the way, he and longtime friend, broadcast journalist Bud Veazey collaborated to design and build a lap version of the pedal steel. That is how Medlock worked, said Veazey.
“He was a facilitator, and he encouraged people to do things they had never done before.”