Mel Showers officially retired from WKRG-TV last month, after 50 years on the air. Over the years, he became the Walter Cronkite of the Gulf Coast -- the most trusted man in Mobile. Considering the era in which he was hired, in the heart of the Civil Rights era, it was a remarkable feat. Considering the man himself, it is utterly unremarkable. Because Mel Showers was been the perfect news anchor for nearly three decades.
African-Americans were rarely seen on local television back in the 1960's, so getting on the air at all was a big deal. He started as a booth announcer, but eventually became a beat reporter for several years. In 1990, Mel Showers became the first African-American to anchor a local evening newscast in our area. According to a story at wkrg.com, Mel's personality and demeanor won over an audience that might not have otherwise wanted to see a black man on TV.
In honor of his achievements, the City of Mobile has designated two streets in his honor. Both are just outside the WKRG studios (that's our building, too). Broadcast Drive has been named Honorary Mel Showers Drive, while Television Circle is Honorary Mel Showers Avenue. If that's confusing, these are honorary street names -- so they will still officially be called Broadcast Drive and Television Circle, respectively. Nothing is changing on Google Maps. (But the usual green street signs, which tell you what the street is actually named, have come down -- at least for now).
As I looked at those brand new street signs outside my office window, I started to reflect a bit on Mel's career, and on the person he is. The honorary street thing is really cool, but why not take the next step and officially name one of these streets for Mel Showers? Just remove the "honorary" from what is still Broadcast Drive, and make it official: Mel Showers Drive. The address for our building would change to 555 Mel Showers Drive. It would make this fitting tribute even better, for a man who essentially broke local TV's color barrier -- and more important, a man who did it with grace, humility, and kindness. I think the post office would figure it out. And Google Maps would get updated to reflect the new street name, as well.
Mel Showers is not done yet. He will occasionally anchor newscasts on Channel 5, just not regularly. And if you want to learn more about Mel, visit an exhibit devoted to his story at the History Museum of Mobile.