WATCH: Celebrating Sabrina Squire's 40 years in broadcasting

Celebrating Sabrina Squire: The Gene and Sabrina years (Source: NBC12)
Celebrating Sabrina Squire: The Gene and Sabrina years (Source: NBC12)
Published: May. 22, 2018 at 2:08 AM EDT|Updated: May. 23, 2018 at 7:12 PM EDT
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When Doug Wilder took the oath of office, Sabrina was there. (Source: NBC12)
When Doug Wilder took the oath of office, Sabrina was there. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Sabrina Squire retires this week, and while Curt Autry had the good fortune of co-anchoring with Sabrina for about a decade, many of you grew up with the combination of Gene Cox and Sabrina.

WATCH: Sabrina's final broadcast! 

In the late '70s, NBC12 cast a net for a brash, handsome anchorman - and looked no further than Baltimore and Gene Cox.

He had big market experience, well-coiffed hair and a booming, baritone voice that was sure to be ratings gold. While Gene and Sabrina can laugh about it now, he had been hired to be a "solo" newscaster.

Much like in the movie 'Anchorman' - the news set at many stations was an all-boys club, and the inclusion of women was often a tricky proposition. The women who were included back then, were often beauty queens or actresses, but Sabrina worked hard to establish herself as so much more.

"I'm not going to tell you that it was 100 percent on day one," said former WWBT News Director Harvey Powers. "It took a while for the chemistry between her and Gene Cox to work out."

Powers made the decision to pair Gene and Sabrina, and he admits, behind the smiles, there was some tension at first.

"I called them both into my office and said 'you guys need to speak with each other, to each other, you need to like each other - on camera.  Now, I'm going to leave the office, you two work it out' and I closed the door and left them in there."

And work it out, they did. What followed was 30 years of dominance. For a time, WWBT had the highest news ratings of any NBC-affiliate in the country.

"I learned so much from her," said Gene Cox.

Gene will tell you, their professional partnership evolved into an enduring friendship. It's mutual respect that lasts to this day.

"She had her thumb on the community, she had good judgment," said Gene Cox.

In a business where 10 years in one market is a rarity, ask Gene Cox how he lasted 32, and he'll make no bones about it. To him, the answer is easy:

"The main reason is Sabrina. I feel like she lifted me up...all of those years."

After four decades in broadcasting, Sabrina was there for some of the biggest news-makers in Virginia.

When the space shuttle Challenger exploded minutes after take-off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Sabrina was there  - reporting live.

When Doug Wilder took the oath of office as the first African-American to serve as governor of a U.S. state since reconstruction, management at Channel 12 couldn't keep Sabrina on the anchor desk - so they took the desk to her, as she reported live!

As a Richmond native, Wilder remembers watching with pride, as Sabrina came up the ranks - fighting many of the battles that he faced, and some he didn't.

"Knowing what she's gone through, in terms of fighting various kinds of things - gender, race - fighting to the extent of never succumbing to the belief that 'you cannot do it.'  She was always one of those 'I CAN do it,'" said Wilder.

From his days campaigning for Richmond City Council, to mayor, lieutenant governor, governor, the U.S. Senate or vice president of the United States, Tim Kaine will tell you that in his adopted hometown of Richmond, Sabrina was front and center during every big story.

"I remember Sabrina, so many times being on the studio set, sometimes in the middle of a weather emergency, like Gaston, a hurricane or a tropical storm," said Kaine. "There's just been this constant. I don't know a Richmond without her as the 12 co-anchor."

"Whom much is given, much is required"... Sabrina has always taken that to heart, mentoring those coming up, and it hasn't gone without notice.

"Being an African-American woman, very young when she started as co-anchor, that really did create a path for others, and she became a real role model," said Kaine.

"When you get a one-name definition, you've made it - when they stopped saying Sabrina 'Squire' and they just said Sabrina... (laughs), you got it made," said Wilder.

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