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Bill Sharpe to retire from Live 5 News after nearly half a century

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 12:39 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2021 at 5:34 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - When Bill Sharpe first joined the Live 5 News team, Richard Nixon was the president, a gallon of gasoline cost just 39 cents, and depending on where you lived, there were only three or four television stations to choose from.

Sharpe announced Monday he will retire from the station after a 48-year award-winning career.

“It’s been a great ride, a blast,” Sharpe said Monday. “Thanks to the Lowcountry for putting up with me all these years.”

He made the announcement at the end of Monday’s edition of Live 5 News at Noon.

He joined the Live 5 News team on Oct. 3, 1973, when he was 22 years old. He began as a radio newsman who was shifting gears to television. He would work with established legends in Charleston television including the likes of Charlie Hall and Carroll Godwin.

During his tenure, Sharpe himself would take over the role of mentor for new crops of journalists for decades to come.

For viewers, he would become one of the most well-known faces of journalism in the Lowcountry, helping them understand stories that ranged from the Watergate scandal to the Iranian hostage crisis, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, Hurricane Hugo, the Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine Charleston firefighters; and the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting that killed nine parishioners of the historically Black church in downtown Charleston.

He received numerous awards including feature and investigative reporting and has been part of newscasts that brought back an Emmy and Peabody Award.

The Peabody Award came after the station’s coverage of Hurricane Hugo, which slammed the Lowcountry in 1989, forcing the station to leave its building, which at the time was located on East Bay Street. Sharpe would later recall that for weeks, the newscasts aired from a makeshift studio at the station’s transmitter tower in Awendaw.

In 2017, Sharpe and his longtime co-anchor, Debi Chard, received the Masters Award from the South Carolina Broadcasters Association. It was the first time the award was given to a team rather than an individual.

Then, the following year, the two were inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Silver Circle, which honors those with at least 25 years in the industry.

Earlier in August, he earned his most recent honor when the SCBA named him Anchor of the Year.

Sharpe’s career took him across Charleston and around the world. He has covered a total of 10 U.S. presidents and remembered his one-on-one interviews with former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Donald Trump as among his most memorable.

Sharpe was a firsthand witness not only of history but changes in the technology behind electronic journalism. When he began at WCSC-TV, the daily news was recorded on film. Film was replaced by videotape and tape vanished as digital recording took over.

Microwave technology allowed for live remote broadcasts in the 1970s. Then came satellite shots, which allowed viewers in the Lowcountry to witness breaking news around the world as it happened.

Sharpe says covering the 1978 installation of John Paul I in Rome was one of his first satellite shots.

Even the writing process evolved thanks to technology during Sharpe’s career. When he started in television, scripts were typed on old electric typewriters while teletype machines printed national headlines. The first computers came onto the scene in the 1980s.

Born Oct. 15, 1950, he grew up in West Ashley and spent his entire life and broadcasting career in Charleston.

Sharpe graduated from St. Andrews High School, which is now West Ashley High. He earned a degree from Emory University in Atlanta in English Literature with a minor in French.

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