WYMT's 25th Anniversary

By Steve Hensley | 

On October 19th, 1985 Ralph Gabbard, WYMT’s founder, flipped the switch that put the station on the air.

The first newscast aired two days later.

The sets, the anchors, and certainly the technology have changed tremendously in the last quarter century.

WYMT’s commitment to serving the people of the mountains has not changed.

It might be hard for some younger people to remember a time without WYMT, but before 1985 this station was just a dream.

“I'll never forget the day that Ralph Gabbard took me into his office and said I need you to help me. I said absolutely! He said I'm going to build a TV station in Hazard, Kentucky and I looked at him and said, are you sure? He said oh yeah, oh yeah,” Tom Bennett, WYMT Construction Supervisor.

Former WKYT News Director Ken Kurtz shared a desire with Ralph Gabbard to build a station that served the mountains.

The late Hazard Mayor Bill Gorman was ready to sell WKYH, the old channel 57.

Kurtz says Gorman told him once that more people in eastern Kentucky knew the West Virginia Governor's name instead of Kentucky's because they were watching Huntington news.

“Mayor Gorman knew that if he sold the station to 27 which had a Frankfort bureau that we'd be covering Kentucky news and the Kentucky governor and Kentucky state government and Kentucky issues,” Kurtz said.

Steve Crabtree, who was working for WKYT at the time, was picked as the brand new station's first anchor.

“Ralph Gabbard and Ken Kurtz came to me and said it's a go, we're going to build a TV station in eastern Kentucky and we would like for you to be its first anchor. Of course I said yes, you had me at hello,” Crabtree said.

Several dignitaries, some who are no longer with us including Gabbard and Gorman, came together in June, 1985 to break ground for WYMT.

In a record amount of time, the station was built and a thousand foot tower was put up on Buffalo Mountain.

A dream became a reality and people were watching from day one.

By tying the region together, Kurtz believes WYMT actually altered the future.

“Eastern Kentucky would be a different place, it really would. We've been able to tell through the combined resources of channel 27 and channel 57 the eastern Kentucky story, not just to the region and the commonwealth but the nation,” Kurtz said.

Everyone involved with WYMT in those early days say it's one of the biggest highlights of their careers.

“It's the only television station I've had a hand in putting on the air and it was enormously interesting and professionally challenging but very satisfying and you're darn right, I'm very proud of it and very proud of what channel 57 has grown into,” Kurtz said.

“WYMT is today something that far exceeds anything that I thought it could be, anything that Ralph Gabbard thought it could be, anything that Ken Kurtz or anyone else thought it would be,” Crabtree said.

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