WJHL founder Lancaster dies at 89

Tony Casey • Jan 27, 2014 at 9:27 PM

You could call Hanes Lancaster Jr.’s appearance during local television station WJHL’s celebration of its 60th anniversary Oct. 28 a victory lap.

The man who almost single-handedly brought TV to the region died at age 89 Monday, just a few months after the station’s birthday.

WJHL General Manager Dan Cates said although there is a great deal of sadness around the station, there’s a lot of Lancaster’s accomplishments to celebrate, too. Those at WJHL were getting health updates from the family in recent months as Lancaster’s health declined.

“We’re honored that he was strong enough to join us at the 60th anniversary,” Cates said.

Lancaster was proud to be involved. His daughters told Cates that Lancaster had expressed how happy he was to be involved in the anniversary. His involvement, Cates said, was something you could always expect through the years in many of the station’s functions.

Cates said what Lancaster accomplished, with his father’s help, is nothing shy of remarkable. Many obstacles needed to be crossed for his plan and his dream to come together, including complications with the Federal Communications Commission in the 1940s, or the 550-foot tower atop the station that fell in 1953 on Tannery Knob.

Cates said Lancaster was a pioneer in the regional TV industry.

“TV in the early ’50s was brand new, and was in its infancy,” Cates said.

Josh Smith, an anchorman with WJHL who’d done research on the station’s history leading up to the anniversary, said although it didn’t look so promising at first, Lancaster kept to his vision, and toughed it out.

“Mr. Lancaster is a living example of someone who had a dream and wouldn’t give up,” Smith said.

Cates said he and the others at the station recognize that without Lancaster they wouldn’t have a successful station to celebrate. How he actually accomplished starting the station was by putting pressure on his father, Hanes Sr., who was a radio man. He won over the support of local viewers and advertisers to make it all happen, and bring the station to air on Oct. 26, 1953.

During Monday night’s broadcast, Cates said WJHL was planning on running photographs and coverage of Lancaster’s legacy to pay honor to the station’s founder.

Recommended for You