NEW ORLEANS -- Garland Robinette, a presence on local airwaves for much of the last four decades, has announced his retirement from WWL Radio after 12 years at the station.
Robinette, who first made a name for himself as a reporter and anchor for WWL-TV from the ’70s to the early ’90s, announced his retirement Friday in an open letter posted on WWL Radio’s website.
He had been off the air since mid-April after a battle with pneumonia, leading to his decision to retire from his job as host of "The Think Tank," said Chris Claus, vice president and general manager of Entercom New Orleans, which owns the radio station.
“Forty years in the public eye is a long time, and it’s been a long run of 'wonderfuls,'” Robinette said in the letter. “Never did I think a boy from the swamps with little education could travel the world, meet presidents, kings, movie stars and see places I had only read and dreamed about. If we do come back to this world for multiple lifetimes, I think I’m in trouble because I’ve used up all my luck in this one.”
He said he would return full-time to painting in his retirement.
A replacement host for Robinette's 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. time slot was not immediately named.
Claus said the decision for Garland to put down the microphone was “a sad one. He means so much to WWL, to our community, to the region. His voice, his leadership and undying passion will be greatly missed."
Before finding a career in broadcasting, Robinette was part of a chemical plant clean-up crew after serving in Vietnam.
He joined WWL-TV in the early 1970s after a brief stint at a Thibodaux radio station. After making the move to TV, he developed a reputation as an environmental reporter.
He and co-anchor Angela Hill made headlines of their own in 1978 when they married, a relationship that ended in divorce nine years later but did not end their on-air partnership.
He left the station suddenly in 1990 to work as a spokesman for Freeport McMoRan, a move that stunned some given his prior, often pointed, reporting on the mining and petroleum company.
Robinette returned to the airwaves in 2005 on what was supposed to be a temporary basis when WWL Radio host David Tyree was undergoing treatment for cancer. The job became permanent after Tyree died.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Robinette conducted the interview with Ray Nagin in which the then-mayor implored the federal government “get off your asses.”
Robinette left the airwaves 10 years ago after a surgery for snoring damaged his vocal cords but returned several months later, albeit with a gravely voice.
Diane Newman, operations and program director for WWL Radio, said Robinette “brought wisdom, passion & guts to WWL at a time when our city, state, region needed leadership. He was the voice of the people during hurricane Katrina, the aftermath and recovery”
Robinette thanked his listeners and former viewers for what he called “this incredible life experience.”
“I am eternally in your debt. Ironically, even those of you who criticized -- even disliked me -- helped me. One of the things I always tried to do was listen to people who disagreed, and in a large percentage of those debates you were right and I was wrong,” he wrote. “Each of those debates was a learning experience of which I emerged a little bit better educated, a little bit better able to see the world not as I wanted, but as it is.”