George Gatley Retires after 57 years in Broadcasting

Congratulations George! After 57 years in broadcasting, George Gatley (Western Agri-Radio Networks, Inc., Yuma, AZ) retired at the end of August. The son of a Boy Scout executive who was raised in Wisconsin, George grew up working on a family friend’s farm where he learned about the hard work of farming. Initially, there were no tractors. Two Belgian horses did the wagon-pulling and hay field work. The first tractor arrived in the mid-1940s. During those years, George said, “I fell in love with agriculture without really realizing it.” After attending the University of Wisconsin, in 1953, George received an invitation from the Boy Scouts of America to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a professional scout executive, which brought him to Washington, DC, where he could see our Nation’s Capitol out his office window. “I loved America, and I loved boy scouting, but I still had wonderful memories and yearnings for the farm,” George said.  

George Gatley and his wife, Chris.
George Gatley and his wife, Chris.

It was his work for the Boy Scouts that led George to broadcasting. He had begun a weekly radio program at a Northern Virginia radio station (known as WEER, Warrenton, VA, 1957-1982). Soon, he had the “radio bug” leaving his scouting job and forming a partnership with two of the station’s engineers. The trio bought WEER. George became the station manager, disc jockey, secretary, janitor and more while the two engineers tackled the technical requirements of the 500-watt station at 1600 on the radio dial. It was at WEER where George first noticed agriculture news on the AP wire and began to broadcast farm and ranch news and market prices as part of his station’s programming.From Warrenton, his radio career passed through Newport News, VA, Richmond, VA, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Eau Claire, WI, Casper, WY, Jackson Hole, WY, Douglas, AZ, and finally in 1977, to Yuma, AZ, where he completed his farm broadcasting years.  George said, “All the time I was doing bits of agriculture news, strictly due to my love for the farm, and knowing that farmers needed to know what was happening in the world to impact what they were doing.”

In 1973, George learned about and joined NAFB, and he attended his first NAFB convention 40 years ago.  George especially enjoyed “rubbing shoulders with my colleagues” at NAFB meetings. “I was really farming again, doing something important for the industry I love – agriculture,” he said. George served NAFB in a variety of ways, but he will be remembered most as an NAFB photographer – a duty he performed for years along with colleague Terry Henne (WSGW, Saginaw, MI). Many remember when George used, as he called it, “real film.”  After taking film pictures, he rushed to a local photo shop to have them developed and then quickly brought the results back to the NAFB convention.  The arrival of digital photography made his job much easier.

Looking back on his years with NAFB, George reflected, “There has been heated discussion, the roar of laughter, solemn moments, but always for me, the awe of rubbing shoulders with the pros.” He continued, “How wonderful it was to interview U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture who came to our meetings and President George H. W. Bush.  How great it was to enjoy and interview the companies that displayed their wares at our annual meeting.”  George felt that even though he had left the farm so many years ago, “I was still farming.” So, we understand why he concludes, “It is with a sad heart that I and my wonderful wife and partner, Christine, close the door to this wonderful career.” Congratulations, George. 

We thank you for your career of “airing on the side of agriculture!”