QRZ Logbook

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sam Brown, WA4IUM, SK

For those outside of East Tennessee, and perhaps Pittsburgh and Chicago, you may not know a lot about Sam Brown, WA4IUM. He was an TV and radio journalist for many years, an anchorman most notably for Knoxville stations WATE and WVLT (then WKXT) before heading into the private sector and teaching at the University of Tennessee.

If you're a ham, especially a ham living outside of the US, you might be familiar with him, as he was a perpetual notch at the top of the DXCC tree. I remember reading many issues of QST and seeing his name at the top of the list, occasionally 1 or 2 from the top. At last check he worked 346 of 394 countries (mixed).

I first heard of the death of Elvis Presley from Sam Brown on August 16, 1977. He was a nightly fixture for getting local, state, and national news. He delivered it the way journalists should, unbiased, unabated, and as professional as you could get. He won four national Edward R. Murrow awards for his work at radio station WNOX.

Last week, Sam died unexpectedly at 59 years of age. It came as a shock to me to hear this. Sam was a pillar in the East Tennessee community. He was active in many amateur radio clubs and was instrumental in getting UT's radio club their tower on top of Neyland Stadium.

I only met him two times on the radio. Early one evening I was driving home with my wife and I heard him key up a local repeater and no one came back. I recognized his call instantly and decided to reply. We ended up chatting for 20 minutes (10 of which were in the driveway at my house, with my wife listening) about our attempt to contact Norm Thagard on the Mir (our first meeting) back in 1995 and my writeup in the local radio club's newsletter about how I attempted to contact Norm's replacement Shannon Lucid and eventually succeeded.

He said he remembered reading my story in the newsletter and complimented me on my writing of the article. To hear someone who's as accomplished as Sam was tell me he liked my writing was nothing short of phenomenal. That's like being told by Tiger Woods, "Hey, nice tee shot!".

That QSO was one of the most memorable ones I've ever recalled, and I will cherish that moment as one for the record books. Unfortunately most hams won't know of his accomplishments and contributions to ham radio. The ARRL hasn't posted a story on him. I guess you have to be damned near a celebrity, world leader, or ARRL cheerleader. Then again, he practically was a celebrity. At least here he was. I'm not going to say that the ARRL should post every ham's obituary on their front page. But for Sam, he was truly a remarkable person and one I think many hams around the world (at least one person in 346 countries) would recognize.