RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - This afternoon, NBC12 hosted a party to celebrate the retirement of chief photographer Willie Redd.
A bittersweet feeling, Willie has been a colleague, a friend and a leader at the station for 46 years!
Before he rode his motorcycle off into retirement, Willie sat down with Diane Walker to talk about his distinguished and noble career.
NBC12′s Diane Walker grabbed lunch with Willie at Garfield’s, an up-and-coming south Richmond restaurant on Midlothian Turnpike. Willie is big on lunch.
The veteran photojournalist has been watching out for anchors, reporters, photographers and producers for years.
Willie has had everyone’s back with words of encouragement during times of stress.
Willie says, “When you’re fed and watered you can focus on the task at hand. As you well know, this is a dangerous profession. There are people who have been injured, who have lost their lives in doing what we do. I always try to find myself some lunch.”
Willie has a set of principles for choosing where he eats. He adds, “I try to buy made-in-America products when I can and then secondarily, I try to support minority businesses when I can and this is a great little place. The service is great. The food is awesome.”
He has a work ethic big on collaboration and cooperation. “Team work makes the dream work,” he’s known to say.
Willie’s calm confidence is endearing. He’s so cool. He’s cool about it all.
Willie explains why, "You can’t panic. You can’t help someone in need if you’re panicking. So, that’s one of my mantras. When the world is spinning out of control, somebody’s got to be focused.”
Reporters, photographers, anchors all say the same thing, having worked with Willie in the newsroom and out in the field.
This photographer’s legacy is what he leaves in the hearts of the people he worked with. The U.S. Navy veteran will never let you fail.
NBC12 and Richmond’s media royalty Sabrina Squire says, “You had my back my brother. In fact, you have had my back for everything for decades. You have held this station up.”
Willie was in Cape Canaveral, Florida with Sabrina when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. He’s traveled to Cuba, South Africa, on the scene of countless local breaking news and with NBC12 anchor Curt Autry and team for former Governor Bob McDonnell’s corruption trial, holding the station up.
Willie teared up and says he’s humbled by the experiences he’s had and moved by the kind words and reflections people are sharing at his retirement.
Diane remembers countless stories working with Willie, when the two covered the court system.
Diane says Willie was the only person she knew who could shoot and walk backwards while chasing a subject and never run into a pole or anything.
Willie’s in-your-face photography is tempered with good judgment. He’s positively inspiring, has a gift for recognizing talent and is known to say - “reach one teach one.”
He adds, “It’s true and I’m proud of that. As an individual. As a role model. As a father figure. I’m proud of that particularly because so many people influenced me early in my career.”
Willie was born to see life through a camera lens and share with the world. He’s grateful for the opportunity and friendships of so many gifted colleagues. He’s proud of his work.
He says, "Being able to tell the story of the down trodden, those who are challenged or in need, I feel that’s really part of what I’ve tried to do responsibly. For those people affected by either events in their lives or something traumatic that happened to them, they need to be heard and so my job has always I thought been to give them a voice to be heard.”
The only thing missing at lunch was Willie’s signature hearty laugh. Maybe this will do it.
Sabrina’s advice to Willie on retirement, "You’re going to love retirement. You can go crazy with your hair. I’m thinking dread locks for you my brother. I can see it now. Locks blowing in the wind under your motor cycle helmet. Yep. That’s it.”
On behalf of the entire NBC12 family, it’s been an honor to work with Willie Redd. So, hold on to this investigative report as documentation of our admiration, and happy retirement.
Many former members of the NBC12 family recorded well wishes, which will be placed on a flash drive for Willie to watch during his leisure time.