CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - After 17 years at the helm, Live 5 WCSC's general manager retires on Friday.
Rita Scott joined the Live 5 team in 1994 as national sales manager, then was promoted to general sales manager four years later. In 1999, she was named vice president and general manager of the station.
"I have been blessed to be surrounded by an amazing and talented staff. Every day you see the joy they bring into the station and the care they feel for Charleston. It has truly been a blessing to be a part of that." Scott said.
Mayor Joe Riley, who also recently retired, was the first to recognize that Rita was the first African American woman general manager at a local television station in the United States.
Scott was born in High Point, North Carolina. Her father was a mortician, and she worked in the family business which she said taught her to respect life. Her mother was a secretary and organist who also managed to stay very active in her children's lives.
Scott dreamed of being an actress, but after studying theater, decided to find a career that would better suit her family.
"You have to go after things that make you happy," Scott says. "But you have to work hard to get it."
She got her television start in sales at WGHP-TV in High Point in 1979, but only after battling against barriers that at that time gave women - particularly African-American women - little chance of breaking into the sales side of television.
"At that time, I decided we needed to open those doors, so we took a class action suit and they decided they would hire me," she said.
She and her then-husband, Gene Littles, a former American Basketball Association player, accepted coaching jobs with the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets. Scott found jobs in television as the couple relocated from place to place. She would work for WJW-TV in Cleveland, Cap Cities/ABC National Sales in Chicago and at WBTV-TV in Charlotte before coming to the Holy City.
Only a week after becoming general manager, Scott faced a major challenge from Mother Nature as Hurricane Floyd was approaching the region, leading to evacuations. For Scott, it was a moment that showed her the depths of her new job as general manager.
"I'm thinking, 'Well, I'm the captain of the ship, so we've got to make it happen,'" she would later recall to Broadcasting and Cable magazine.
During that first year on the job in Charleston, Riley honored Scott by naming Oct. 21 in her honor in Charleston.
"She's so well-loved, she could have more than one day," Riley said.
"Rita loves Charleston and the people of Charleston, her passion for place and community has been infused into the staff at WCSC throughout the years, it shows in everything they do from community events to the news coverage they provide every day." Paul McTear, Raycom Media President and CEO, said. "We appreciate all Rita has done for us, a job well done. I wish Rita and her husband Leon nothing but happiness as she enjoys a well-deserved retirement."
In addition to her service at Live 5 WCSC, Scott has served on numerous boards including Spoleto USA, the International African American Museum, which she has served as vice chair; Trident United Way, the Sophia Institute, the Regional CEO Council and the Nielsen Alliance.
"Rita Scott has always reflected the best qualities of Charleston itself. She is charming, competitive, resilient, ambitious and gracious." said Don Richards, Raycom Media Group Vice President. "Thankfully she will continue to be a part of our WCSC extended family for years to come."
During Scott's tenure at Live 5 WCSC, the station has not lost a news ratings race. The station became the first in the Lowcountry to broadcast in high definition, built a robust digital platform and launched "Bounce Charleston," the first over-the-air network targeting the African-American community.
"I believe you can have everything you desire," Scott says. "I believe we were put here to have everything we desire, but you have to believe it yourself. Decide what you want and go get it."
Scott and her husband, Leon, plan to continue to make Charleston their home. Rita has two sons, a granddaughter and grandson.