By Shirley Shuman
The voice known statewide as the public announcer of West Virginia high school tournament games—both girls and boys, and this season as the announcer of BCHS games, is that of a Braxton county resident. Frank Blake began announcing the state tournament games in 1972. This is Blake’s 49th year at the job.
He has already declared that he looks forward to March of next year to make it 50 years; then he’ll says he’ll “turn the job over to someone younger.” Blake has been using his voice to make a living for a long time and in many ways.
He began at radio station WHAW in Weston with a summer job the year he graduated from high school. After studying broadcast journalism two years at WVU, Blake said, “I thought I wasn’t learning enough so I joined the Air Force.” While in the Air Force, he reported, he turned down 15 commissions because he “wanted to work rather than order someone else to do the work.”
Another achievement for Blake during his Air Force tenure, this one outside of broadcasting, was editing the US Air Force newspaper for all the bases in Korea. Since there were no printing facilities in Korea, he went to Tokyo once a week to print the paper. “That was a real commute,” Blake commented.
His next venture came after he left the Air Force and returned to WVU to finish his degree. While there he earned a summer internship with the Voice of America, the first non-Ivy League student to do so. During his time there, he said, “The listenership was 80 million.” Here Blake mentioned that he met famed newscaster Edward R. Murrow, who asked him how a young man from West Virginia could possibly obtain the highly desired internship. “I told him that I had taught myself the international phonetic alphabet. At that, Mr. Murrow just smiled,” Blake said.
After his WVU graduation, he worked for the WVU Extension Service out of Morgantown. In that position, he continued using his vocal skills as he did two radio shows a week aired by over 50 stations in the state.
An achievement of which Blake is especially proud is his work with the Children’s Miracle Network to raise money for WVU’s children’s hospital.
As TV host for the event, he “got to work with singer Marie Osmond and with John Snyder of ‘Dukes of Hazard,’” They raised several million dollars for the hospital.
Another accomplishment of which this versatile man is proud was “putting a television station on the air from scratch.” That was public television station Channel 9 in Beckley. Still later, as executive secretary for WV Public Broadcasting, he initiated the WV Public Radio Network.
Then came ownership, with partners, of three radio stations followed by 16 years of work for FEMA. “I worked in media relations,” Blake explained, “and in 16 years, as their spokesperson, handled hundreds of interviews on radio and television.”
Then came the time he had had enough variety. “At age 77, I decided to quit working on a regular basis, but I stayed with broadcasting basketball tournament games. As general manager of the station in Beckley, I did play-by-play for three girls and three boys championship game.”
What followed was that for which West Virginians best known Frank Blake—announcing the state basketball championship games. He’s in Charleston this week for the boys tournament. After one more year, however, he plans to hand the microphone to the next generation—except the microphone at the Braxton County Armory. “I’ll still announce Braxton sports,” he said,” as long as I’m physically able.” That should please local sports fans.
By Shirley Shuman