WSB’s film archive

It seems that the University of Georgia has uploaded much of WSB’s vintage news film library onto the web, and anybody can watch. Talk about a eureka moment. Some of it is spine tingling. All of it is raw, especially compared to the HD world of the 21st century. But if you’re a news buff, a film buff, a history buff and / or an Atlantaphile, you can kill hours on this site. However, it’s a little convoluted to navigate. Start here:

When you get there, you’ll find 89 thumbnails– clips of film no longer than 15 seconds or so, with no written explanation. Click on the thumbnail showing Lester Maddox in 1961, for example, and you’ll see this eleven second clip:

When the clip finishes, you’ll go to the Youtube site. (To get there from LAF, double click the window above.)

In the grey box to the right, you’ll see “Please see full film @ …” and it’ll send you to a UGA website. Go there, and a full four and a half minute clip will play– excerpts of a debate between mayoral candidates Maddox and Ivan Allen, with Maddox sarcastically beating the drum for segregation.

The clip plays as it aired in the film chain at the TV station. You hear sound, then the film goes silent as the reporter or anchor read narration (you don’t hear the narration). Then you hear sound again. In the Allen-Maddox clip, the best sound is at the end. In it, Maddox says, if elected, he would “say Ralph, go on back to Forsyth St. with all deliberate speed, boy.” Presumably, he’s talking about Ralph Abernathy.

One can somewhat browse the UGA site here. It’s not terribly user-friendly, though.

But it’s a rich find. Click here, and you’ll see a 1966 protest at the Capitol after the House refused to seat Julian Bond. Martin Luther King Jr. gives a stirring speech near the Tom Watson statue, with dozens of jacked-up state troopers standing in the wings.

For camp value, click here. A reporter named Joel Abrams delivers a 1968 report on a UGA protest encampment called “persecution city.” Abrams appears to be a little embarrassed by the whole thing. It seems WSB covered numerous protests back in the day, when an assignment editor would hand 100 feet of film to a news crew and tell them to return in time for film processing and hot-splice editing.

WSB was the only Atlanta TV station to save its film stock, handing it over to UGA for archiving and safekeeping. UGA makes copies of the film readily available, including to WSB’s Atlanta competitors.

The web site says the WSB archive covers material from 1949 to 1981. Eureka.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

12 thoughts on “WSB’s film archive

  1. David Powell

    The “Ralph” in question could be Ralph McGill the paper’s editor. McGill and Maddox were not the best of friends; one was a rabid segregationist and one was a liberal.

  2. rptrcub

    I loves me vintage film. I’m sure they had stuff aired back then that was just as mundane as the crap today, but I wonder what shift in priorities caused everyone to be focused on fires and accidents and bright shiny objects.

  3. rptrcub

    @LBJ: only SOME of the archive clips are online. Make sure when you’re doing your search to click the checkbox that says “digital clip attached” or something like that. Most of what’s there has to deal with the Civil Rights era, with a few small scatterings of cutting-floor material from random events, as well as Vietnam protests dealing with Dean Rusk at UGA.

    I would love to see a clip I found using the search engine, where they had an “academic expert” trying to explain the phenomenon of streaking back in ’74.

  4. locutus of borg

    Lester Maddox’s feuds with the Atlanta Journal Constitution were the stuff of legend. Maddox had the feud forever enshrined when he had his official gubernatorial portrait made. The portrait hangs in the state capitol next to paintings of other governors. If you look in the lower left corner of the painting on Maddox’s desk, you’ll see a copy of the AJC wrapped around a dead fish. Classic Georgia.

  5. live apt fire Post author

    I think Mr. Powell is on to something. The Atlanta Constitution was housed in that Forsyth St. building back in the day, when Ralph McGill was editor I think. It all makes sense now. Nice to know Maddox was an equal-opportunity user of the word “boy.”

    @Brian and r-cub: thanks for the links.

  6. gooberpeas

    too bad they don’t make’em like Maddox anymore….

    he was a Great American!

    unfortunately, by the time everyone realizes it, it will be too late.

  7. Kelly

    Too bad they didn’t put up one of the clips from 1993/94 when, I think it was a WSB, reporter was standing on the street with a tornado right behind him and he is standing there talking about the tornado while the camera guy is yelling at him to leave.

  8. Banks

    Its too bad they want to charge around 30 bucks or something per second to use. I am a poor film documentarian scrounging for budget. They won’t even work with me on a back end deal.

  9. Andy Dill

    That’s pretty sensational footage. Like Banks pointed out above though, the price of securing the footage for use in a video production is pretty steep. Still, all in all, this is a fantastic resource.


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