Station lifeblood, WBRZ chief engineer Clyde Pierce, has died
BATON ROUGE – Legendary Louisiana broadcast technician Clyde Pierce has died. He was the lifeblood of the WBRZ telecasting operation.
Pierce, 70, died at home Monday evening following a lengthy illness. His wife, Renee, was by his side.
As the station’s chief engineer for decades, Pierce led the team that quite literally kept WBRZ on the air. Sometimes, it was Pierce himself who was solely responsible for making sure the channel 2 broadcast signal was beamed across the region.
From an office just outside the technological hub of the broadcast facility where a couch offered him a chance to nap during long, grueling 24-hour days, Pierce managed the station’s stacks of television equipment and miles of video cable. Pierce made sure the WBRZ and WBTR television signals were broadcasting non-stop and constantly ensured the studio facility in Old South Baton Rouge and the near 2,000-foot broadcast tower in Sunshine were operating in tandem, never wavering – whether it be bright, sunny mornings or stormy, windy hurricanes. Clyde Pierce was there.
“We have lost a family member,” WBRZ owner Richard Manship said.
“Clyde Pierce gave his all to this television station. It was not unusual to see Clyde filling in for one of his employees; Not unusual to see him here for the duration of a hurricane. It was not unusual to see him here early and late. It will be unusual not to see him here at all,” Manship said.
Pierce harnessed electricity – the power needed for a small town – to pump out the WBRZ broadcast signals. But you wouldn’t know it – Clyde Pierce had a calm, humbling demeanor, that brought a sense of ease to the non-stop world of television.
“He was a special person who was friends with everyone,” WBRZ General Manager Rocky Daboval said.
Pierce had been a WBRZ employee for 43 years – working in the engineering department for the Manship family’s pioneering television station since 1976. He became the chief engineer in 1991.
Before leading the day-to-day engineering operations, Pierce was a steward of the then-burgeoning satellite video network. In the early-80’s, he managed WBRZ’s satellite operations unit. Outfitted with one of the country's first satellite television production trucks, Pierce managed the production necessities of connecting video from studios and equipment on land, into outer space and back.
In the 1980s, live television was not as easy as obtaining access to internet or cell phone signals. Instead, large pieces of equipment and satellite dishes were needed to transmit a signal.
As part of the engineering leadership at channel 2, Pierce and the team worked to help the TV station lead the way in modern hearing impaired systems when, in 1988, WBRZ was the first Louisiana station to provide closed captioning during local newscasts.
As director of the engineering department later, Clyde Pierce guided the transition into HD broadcasting and was looking to the future of the next generation of television: An era coming that will allow for even better video and sound quality, helping to connect homes, businesses and cars with the people that use them.
Clyde Pierce’s life-long commitment to broadcasting was never ignored. Earlier this year, he was honored by his colleagues state-wide as the best engineer through the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters’ annual spotlight of an engineer of the year.
“There was never a problem that Clyde couldn't find the answer to,” Daboval said, adding that Pierce was a “dear friend” who may have loved broadcasting but adored his family even more.
“His wife and family were the people who brought him the most joy,” he said.
Clyde and Renee have a son, Jake, and two granddaughters.
The family has created a memorial scholarship fund at LSU for Manship School of Mass Communication students. You can donate HERE.
Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz
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