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Best in the radio ‘Boothe’

After years of being known as one of Opp’s most recognizable voices, Robert Boothe recently found himself at a loss for words after receiving a recent statewide honor.

Boothe, general manager of WOPP 1290-AM, was selected as the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s “2009 Broadcaster of the Year,” at the association’s luncheon in Perdido Beach on Sat., May 16.

Boothe has been the general manager of WOPP since it signed on to the air in 1980. He worked at several radio stations in Florida and Alabama prior to starting the station in Opp, the town where he grew up and which he loves.

“I love Opp, and any one who doesn’t realize that — from being around me — is an idiot,” he said matter-of-factly. “My goal was always to build a radio station here.”

Boothe said receiving the honor was a complete surprise and a humbling experience for him.

“Some of my friends were acting kind of weird, but my friends are weird anyway,” Boothe joked. “I found out they had tried to sneak my brother and his wife, and my uncle and aunt into the convention without me seeing them.

“When I realized (the award presenter) was talking about me, I didn’t react much until I went up there to get the award. But then you look back out and you see your family and friends and everything … Anybody who doesn’t get emotional at that point doesn’t have a heart.”

Boothe said that he first wanted to get into the radio business since “it looked like you got to sit down the entire time.” He added that he has enjoyed his time in an industry that has been constantly changing since he started broadcasting school in 1969.

“It’s changed tremendously, from the records to the reel-to-reel,” Boothe said. “For the longest time, we thought cart machines (they were similar to eight-tracks) were A-1, but now those are obsolete. The computer world has really saved radio; the Internet is the right way to go.

“I’m good with the Internet, but I’m still having problems with the MySpace page. Thankfully I have young people like (music director) Kayla (Burleson) and others to help me with that; it makes it fun.”

Boothe said the station in Opp would not be a success without the help of countless volunteers and assistants.

“We’ve had some distinguished people to help, knowing that small-time radio won’t make a lot of money,” he said.

He added that the best compliment anyone could give him about his radio station would be that “it comforts you during the storms.”

“Numerous times, during hurricanes and tornadoes, we were the only radio station on the air in Covington County,” Boothe said. “I remember one time I was personally on the air 78 hours without sleep. We were on radio by generator power, and even my local distributor of gasoline had to bring gas to keep us on. I still get stopped maybe twice, three times a month, by someone who says, ‘Boy, I listened to you on the radio all night in that storm,’ and that’s cool to hear.”

Boothe was presented the award by the 2008 Broadcaster of the Year, Paul McTear Jr., president of RayCom Media, whose holdings include WSFA-TV in Montgomery.

“RayCom reaches about a third of the country, and here all I cover is 20 miles,” Boothe said with a laugh.