Cancer has taken a legendary local radio host off the air, but Nelle Reagan remains strong in spirit at her Rosemont Park home.
Reagan was diagnosed with inoperable ovarian cancer in mid-December.
“You talk about a kick in the gut,” Reagan said. She said she really misses her audience and co-workers, whom she referred to as her second family, at Rome Radio Partners, a multi-station group on John Davenport Drive.
Fellow broadcaster and city commissioner Randy Quick said Reagan “has introduced our audiences to the wonderful people making our community such a special place with one of the finest, most recognizable voices in radio. Whether in the studio or on location, it has always been an honor to share a microphone with such a gifted broadcaster.”
Reagan’s career in radio has spanned six decades, beginning in 1960 in Rockmart when Jim McRee, a sales manager from WPLK in Rockmart, made a call to her family’s business and suggested that she had a wonderful voice for radio.
The rest, as they say, is history. And she’s done it all — from reading the news to spinning the latest Top 40 hits.
Reagan moved to Rome in the late 1960s and joined the staff at WROM radio. From there she moved over to WLAQ where she worked from 1984 to 1993.
“She was a very good announcer,” said station owner Randy Davis. His wife Sandra recalled that when the station moved from a music format to an all talk format that Nelle, who was the morning show host, was a little worried about whether or not she could handle the all talk concept. “She did so much research, she was so prepared,” Sandra said.
After she left WLAQ, Reagan worked at the Rome/Floyd 911 center for several years before Randy Quick brought her to WRGA in 1998. She ended her career there in December when the cancer was detected.
Nelle revived the old Ben Lucas Talk of the Town radio program when she joined WRGA. Lucas actually broadcast from the roof of the former Roy’s Little Garden on Dean Avenue daily back in the ’50s and early ’60s, but Reagan kept her show in studio. Her first guest was Lucas. It started out as a mid-morning show but later moved to the noon hour.
The veteran broadcaster said the most famous person she ever interviewed was Jimmy Carter when he was in Rome during his bid for the White House.
“He was just so sincere,” Reagan said. She recalled that her most difficult interview was probably with radio legend Don Imus. “He was very obnoxious and acted like he owned the world,” Nelle recalled.
Reagan has no idea how many interviews she’s done through her career. “Thousands, just thousands,” Reagan said. “It’s been at least two people a day, sometimes more, five days a week for the last 20 years alone. You do the math.”
Many of her guests at WRGA have been regulars, folks like Floyd County Extension Director Keith Mickler who talk about gardening with Mark Lamade and Mike Meadows.
“We were Nelle’s Garden Boys,” Mickler said. He also recalls competing hard with Reagan when it came to baking cakes for events at the Free Clinic. “It was always her strawberry cake and my cat litter cake,” Mickler said. Reagan’s strawberry cake was legendary at various fundraisers around Rome.
Randy Quick said when Nelle brought a covered dish to a company gathering, there were no leftovers.
“Nelle Reagan is most definitely ‘one of a kind’ and forever endeared in the hearts of all of those who love her in Northwest Georgia and beyond,” said Quick.
Away from her radio duties, Reagan has been involved in all kids of community activities. She was the head of the Parks and Recreation Department ceramics program for close to a decade in the late ’70s and ’80s operating out of a small concrete block building inside the fence at Barron Stadium.
Reagan was active with the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth, the Women’s Information Network, Blood Assurance, the Department of Juvenile Justice Regional Youth Detention Center and many other community organizations.
Nelle has been honored professionally numerous times by both the Associated Press and Georgia Association of Broadcasters. She was also chosen as the Grand Marshal of the Rome Christmas Parade in 2012 and inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in 2013.
Reagan is resting at home with her daughter Lynn and son Jimmy helping out.