When Snow Jam 2014 paralyzed Atlanta Jan. 28, Captain Herb Emory stayed on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB, providing updates for more than 18 hours straight.
“My biggest problem,” program director Pete Spriggs said during a memorial service Saturday morning at the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, “was getting Herb and the traffic center to take a break and relax. And eat. He just wanted to serve while you were stuck.”
Emory, 61, died of a heart attack April 12 after helping victims of a two-car collision near his home in Douglasville. He was a dedicated traffic reporter and a vibrant man always open to mentoring younger staffers, making charity appearances or simply lifting someone’s day with a kind word — his friends on the dais Saturday made that clear.
WSB traffic reporter Doug Turnbull said that in 2004, at age 18, his mom convinced him to contact Emory to talk about NASCAR. Emory, on the spot, offered Turnbull an internship at the station and proceeded to school him about traffic reporting.
Turnbull thought it was apt Emory died while serving others: “God takes us when it’s our time. He was such an overachiever. He just finished his deeds a lot earlier than a lot of us.”
Fellow traffic reporter Mark Arum conveyed Emory’s humble generosity with an anecdote. Arum took Emory and his wife Karen to the Ritz Carlton for an ultra-fancy brunch with lobster, steak and caviar. What did Emory eat? Scrambled eggs, biscuits and cheese grits. And Arum thought he had paid for Emory’s meal but later found a $100 bill stuck in his jacket pocket — courtesy of Emory.
Several people who showed up at the public memorial service for Emory had never met him, and had merely heard his comforting Southern lilt on the radio.
“It’s still hard for me to not hear his voice on the radio,” said Charmaine Lounders of Marietta. “He brought so much more than traffic. He brought heart.”
Jonathan Dockery, who worked at WSB radio for six months and now runs his own Carrollton Menu news site, said the service gave him a sense of closure. Emory took Dockery out to lunch one day last year and gave him a great pep talk: “‘Keep your rhythm, tap your foot. Know that you’ll eventually get to where you can be … a good traffic reporter.’ With him saying that, I was able to transition into a decent reporter.”
Jeff Walker, operations manager at WRAS, the Georgia State University radio station, worked with Emory on the board of the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame. He said the emotional response to Emory’s death over the past week was indicative of his impact.
“It was that bond between the listener and the broadcaster that he understood, and he never betrayed that trust,” Walker said. “That’s why they talked about how much he had to make sure he had his facts straight, because he didn’t want to let the audience down. That’s what made him a great man.”