SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - All year long, WTOC is celebrating 65 years. This week, we’re taking a look back at WTOC Anchor, Sonny Dixon.
Sonny started as a general assignment reporter and quickly made his way to morning anchor.
“The public accepted it, which is amazing because I’m ugly as a bowling shoe,” he said. “It had to be either kindness or kin. Kindness of people who knew I was from around here and knew how to pronounce the rivers and the counties and all of that, and kin because you know I’m kin to everyone from Tattnall County, Evans, Screven, Bulloch, Effingham, Pierce, and counties in between.”
Sonny loved the morning shift. He could go home at 1 in the afternoon, but that schedule would soon change as Doug Weathers retired.
“They said, ‘you are going to to go to 6 p.m.’ I said ‘I don’t want it.’ They said, ‘that’s not the reaction we expected,' but I said ‘I can’t work on my cars, my tan, my flowers,’ but they said 'we are sorry. You’re going to 6...and that’s how it happened."
That move paid off. Sonny was awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award, Georgia Associated Press Award for Best Documentary, Georgia’s Best TV Anchor by the Associated Press, and many others. Among his many awards and achievements, there’s one that stands out.
“I said, 'well, they are just going to nominate someone from a small market just to pat them on the head, but it will go to Atlanta,” Dixon said.
He was nominated for the Emmy, “Best Anchor.” Sonny went to the awards dinner thinking he didn’t have a chance.
“I’m checking college baseball scores on my phone, and my wife says, ‘this is your category,’ and I said, ‘it’s going to go to that person from WXIA,’ and they said, ‘the Emmy goes to Sonny Dixon, WTOC Savannah.’ I dropped my phone. Forgot to breathe. Hadn’t even thought about what I might say.”
In Sonny Dixon fashion, he came up with a speech that put a smile on the face of everyone in the room.
“Probably, they made a mistake, but I ain’t giving it back,” he said.
If there was an award for parade host, Sonny would probably get that, too. He has hosted almost every parade in the WTOC viewing area.
“I just think that this is a wonderful way to get out and feel and touch people and listen to what they like and what they don’t like,” Sonny said. “So, to that extent, there is pragmatism in it because you know what’s working and what’s not.”
Longtime friend, Wayne Dasher, hosted the Glennville Sweet Onion Parade with Sonny every year.
“He was just the type of person that everywhere he went, he made friends,” Sonny said. “So, when he came back, everybody just felt like they had been knowing him forever, so to speak.”
Dasher says Sonny loved the parades, but also loved the festivals.
“He was up and down the street, saying hello to people,” Dasher said. “After the parade, he would go out to our farmer’s market and meet folks out there or help on the stage with different things.”
Sonny also liked getting out in the community and meeting teachers during WTOC’s Top Teacher segment. He was always the one going out of his way to find the most deserving teacher.
“I said, 'I don’t give a flip if it is Hazlehurst or wherever, I’m going there.”
Sonny retired in 2015 after working at WTOC for 18 years. We asked him what made WTOC so special in the past 65 years. He says the station is not only about informing the community, but being a part of the community.
“Doug Weathers set the standard for what he used to say, ‘earning, not winning.’ Earning viewers’ loyalty one at a time; treating them with respect. That’s been the WTOC way since W.T. Knight to Doug Weathers.”
Dasher says that’s just what Sonny did while he was at WTOC, while he was on and off the anchor desk.
“He’s the same every day. He knows you when he sees you. There are some people you think, 'you know, that guy just doesn’t have the connection that you would like to see in a friendship, but Sonny was the same if you saw him two months ago or two days in a row. He was the same guy.”
Sonny is enjoying retirement with his wife Margaret and dog Harley. They love to travel but always end up right back here in Savannah.
“Living in the motor home, dragging my Ford truck with my Harley in the back and my fishing rods on board. Life don’t get much better than that. I’m happy to keep driving Miss Daisy till the day I die.”
If you’d like to take a look back through WTOC’s history, click here.