Wednesday, December 10, 2014

R.I.P.: Flint, MI Radio News Dean Les Root Has Died

Les Root
Les Root, who spent more than a half century broadcasting news in the Flint area with a signature tenor and rhythm, died Monday five years after signing off the air for the final time.

Root was 75 years of age, according to

"He was like the local version of Walter Cronkite," said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who was hired as a news reporter by Root in 1977 and worked with him for approximately six years, including while he was attending law school, at AM station WFDF.

"We used to call him the dean of Mid-Michigan newsmen -- a real pro," Leyton said. "He was a throwback news guy who would make all the calls to police and fire departments in the morning, write his own news, edit the wire, and put together a newscast on the hour and the half-hour."

Root started broadcasting as a student at Flint Central High School, working as an engineer-announcer at FM station WFBE. He graduated in 1957, and found part-time jobs in Flint radio, first at a station owned by the Methodist Radio Parish and then at WBBC, which later became WTRX.

Root was a member of the Jones Boys, a marketing concept that the station owner set up for his on-air personalities: "John Paul Jones, " Tom Jones, " "Casey Jones," and "Lonesome Jones."

Root told The Journal in 2002 that each name went with a particular shift, and the announcers behind the names where almost interchangeable.

"I was Lonesome Jones from midnights to 5 a.m. and then I was Les Root, news anchor, from 5 till 9 (a.m.), " he said. "And for a brief time, I was Tom Jones."

In 1970, he became news director of WFDF and left the airwaves only after his job at Cumulus Media was eliminated and he was laid off in 2009.

He was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 2006.

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