LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - After more than four decades, Barbara Bailey – Kentucky’s longest-serving television news anchor – plans to retire from WKYT later this month.
Bailey is considered a trailblazer for women in television news and worked her way up from being a newsroom assistant to one of the station’s most beloved, longtime anchors.
“I’m certain I’ll shed some tears, but they are happy tears,” Bailey said. " I have wonderful memories, and I’ve made great friends in my years here at WKYT. So when is the right time to hang up the mic and head home? There’s no perfect time. But this feels right. It’s been 41 years.”
Over the course of her four decades at WKYT, Bailey was there as the University of Kentucky won multiple national championships in basketball and as the community dealt with tragedies.
“Personally and professionally, it has been an honor to work alongside Barbara Bailey,” said WKYT Vice President and General Manager Jeff Anderson. " She has been a vital and essential part of WKYT for 41 years, and we greatly appreciate her service. You can’t replace a Barbara. You can only hope that her great work has helped others. She will certainly be missed. We wish her well on her well-deserved retirement.”
Bailey is a native of Harlan and a graduate of Harlan High School and the University of Kentucky. While attending graduate school at the University of Kentucky, she was also a teaching assistant there.
Before her work in television, Barbara was a general assignment reporter for The Harlan Daily Enterprise.
A year after Bailey started as a newsroom assistant at WKYT, she anchored her first newscast in 1980 and quickly moved up in the ranks. In 1984, she started anchoring evening newscasts with the late John Lindgren. During the last half of the 1980s, she was paired with Bill Bryant and Sam Dick and has continued to anchor with both ever since.
“When I came to WKYT in 2006, I quickly learned that Barbara is an invaluable part of the station. Her passion for the station, its viewers, and the community was immediately evident,” said WKYT News Director Robert Thomas. “For me, and I know for so many other people at WKYT, Barbara is a major part of what makes WKYT so successful. She’s an outstanding journalist and mentor to countless other journalists who walked through the doors at WKYT.”
For her remarkable career, the University of Kentucky voted to induct her into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame this year and the Kentucky Broadcasters Association honored her with its Mic Hall of Fame Award in 2019.
To mark the milestone of 40th anniversary at WKYT, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton proclaimed July 2, 2019, “Barbara Bailey Day” in Lexington. “Barbara began her journey at WKYT on July 2, 1979, starting as a newsroom assistant. And over the past 40 years, Barbara has blazed a trail for women in Lexington television news,” Mayor Gorton said in the proclamation.
Beyond the walls of the station, Bailey has been an active part of the community serving on the boards of numerous organizations.
Bailey’s last day at WKYT will be September 25.
In an upcoming special program called “A Conversation with Barbara Bailey” that will air at 7 p.m. on September 19, her longtime co-anchors will highlight her work and most memorable moments.
“It is a team, and that’s what made this place so special all these years,” Bailey said. “Now, I want to spend quality time with my family which has been as supportive – and patient – with my career and the crazy hours that go with it, as one could possibly hope. I have two precious granddaughters. I’ll still have my friends at WKYT and, of course, the viewers I’ve met along the way. But I won’t be working holidays, and I don’t have to schedule vacations around ratings periods. It sounds very peaceful to me.”
Bailey is married to Roger Cowden. They have two children, Courtney Cowden Woomer and Clark Cowden, and granddaughters Callie and Caroline Woomer.
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