With permission from the author, I've included the bio/tribute written by my father (Bart's adopted son) upon Bart's passing.
By Robert Butler:
Long time North Carolina radio personality Harry Barclay Bart Ritner, Jr. died of complications from cancer early on Wednesday, December 28th. Ritner was born in Rocky Mount, November 27, 1935. The former radio host at both WRAL-FM and WPTF radio was 76 years old.
Ritner s illustrious career in broadcasting began while attending East Carolina University. In Greenville, Bart worked as cameraman and director for WNCT-TV s local news. After college, Ritner returned to Rocky Mount, joined WCEC-AM, and discovered his true love and talent, being behind the microphone in the radio business.
After mastering radio skills for 10 years in Eastern North Carolina, Bart moved to the big time at WRAL-FM Radio in Raleigh. In only two years, his career took a huge leap when he moved to WPTF Radio, the dominant radio station in the market at the time, which featured a news and talk format. It was at WPTF where Ritner honed his interview skills and became a trailblazer with Open Line, one of the nation s pioneer call-in and interview radio programs. Ritner was neither conservative nor liberal he dealt with each issue on its own merits.
During his career, Bart Ritner interviewed a number of notable people including President Lyndon Johnson, Governors Terry Sanford, Dan Moore, and Jim Hunt, Agriculture Commissioner Jim Graham, television star Andy Griffith, Senator Jesse Helms, a number of Congressmen including, Howard Coble, Ike Andrews, and Walter Jones, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, singer Jimmy Dean, as well as some infamous people, including NC bootleggers, Velma Barfield, and exposing major Klan leaders in the Tar Heel State.
In 1978, Bart had a role in the motion picture Time of the Eagle which was a full length motion picture shot in the Raleigh-Durham area and produced by Larry Gardner of Videofonics. His brief fame on the big screen appears 44 minutes into the movie which can still be seen on YouTube.
In the 1980′s, Bart Ritner served as negotiator during a hostage situation at the maximum-security Central Prison in Raleigh. Ritner served as principal communicator between the inmates and Warden Sam Garrison. With Ritner s assistance, Warden Garrison was able to resolve the prison takeover with minimal disruption and no loss of life. Bart was trusted by both the inmates and the Department of Corrections, due to his common sense approach to issues on the radio.
Over the years, Bart had the opportunity to work with many great broadcasters in North Carolina, including Bill Jackson, Wally Ausley, Charlie Gaddy, Graham Poyner, Ray Wilkenson, Garry Dornburg, Carl Venters, Bob Butler, Bob Debardelaben, Don Curtis, Charles Stegall, Mike Blackman, Fred Fletcher, Sam Beard, Mike Raley, Maury O Dell, Jay Butler, Mike Wheelis, Bryan McIntyre, Phil Zachary, Dick Storck, Bob Farrington, Johnny Hood, and many others.
Donald W. Curtis, Chairman and CEO of Curtis Media Group which owns WPTF Radio said in a released statement that Bart was a true pioneer.
Open Line was one of the nation s first daily two-way talk programs, he added. Bart will always be remembered as one of North Carolina s most innovative and talented personalities in talk radio.
After 39 years behind the microphone at WPTF Radio, Ritner retired and joined Jeff Monsein, owner of Aluminum Company of North Carolina in Durham, to assist with public relations.
Bart was born in Rocky Mount to Ruth Joyner and H. Bart Ritner, Sr., both deceased. He graduated from Rocky Mount High School, attended the Rocky Mount Episcopal Church, and became an Eagle Scout. He served in the US Army Reserve and received an honorable discharge. Ritner obtained his solo pilot s license in a tiny Cessna while working at WCEC Radio.
As a child, Bart always wanted to grow up to be a garbage truck driver. He was fascinated by the trucks, their hydraulics, and wanted to make them dump the trash. He always asked the truck drivers to dump the trash in his driveway he wanted to see it work. With all due respect to garbage truck drivers and their important role, Bart managed to embarrass his parents on a number of occasions when asked about his lofty career expectations.
One of Bart s childhood highlights involved his cousin Tom Adkins father, who served as a blimp pilot during WWII. His job was to fly over the Atlantic Ocean and look for submarines. One weekend, Tom s dad flew the blimp all the way to Rocky Mount and traveled down Hill Street. He stopped and talked with all the kids on the ground including Bart.
Before and after retirement, Bart enjoyed photography, particularly wildlife. A small sample of his photos can be seen at: www.heybart.smugmug.com
Toward the end of his life, Bart maintained his wonderful sense of humor, entertaining the nurses at Rex, even in ICU. On one occasion, after opening a mail delivery from home, he could not stop laughing at the irony of receiving a death threat from a long ago, disgruntled radio listener. Ritner had just endured a six hour surgery for stage 4 cancer.
Bart is survived by adopted family Robert Butler, wife Sally Butler, and their son Brad Butler of Wrightsville Beach; Aunts Mrs. Mildred Joyner Weeks and Mrs. Martha Joyner Adkins both of Rocky Mount; Cousins Tommy Adkins his wife Gaenell of Morehead City, Billy Adkins and wife Jennie of Minnesott Beach, Ellen Joyner Marriott and husband John of Pine Knoll Shores, Carolyn Weeks Fink and husband Charlie of Midlothian, Va., David Worth Joyner of Raleigh, Frankie Joyner Tilley and husband Mac of Rocky Mount, and Cousin Will Webb of Raleigh.
Ritner s classic radio sign-off echoes in our minds: Walk good everybody! I'm your friend, Bart Ritner.