Bluefield Daily Telegraph
One of the legends of Bluefield broadcasting, Crockett J. “Tiny” Thompson Jr., 80, died Tuesday at a Tazewell, Va., hospital. Thompson was the son of long-time Bluefield Daily Telegraph city editor, C.J. “Big Tiny” Thompson Sr., who started in radio with WHIS-AM, and made the transition to WHIS-TV, and was still news anchor when the television station made the transition to WVVA-TV.
“I also knew Tiny’s father, Big Tiny, very well,” said John C. Shott, general manager of WHIS-TV when the station went on the air in 1955. “Tiny was a good friend, a good employee and a good newsman. He worked for me in radio and television. When I think back about those years, it brings back memories of several humorous moments, but when it came to getting the news, Tiny was always right there.”
Thompson was born in 1932, grew up in Bluefield, served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne and returned home to work in radio news for a time before moving into television. In the early years, veteran newsman, the late Mel Barnett served on the WHIS-TV anchor desk, but eventually, Thompson moved into the anchor desk.
“That was back at a time when most of us were BI-vocational,” Jim Nelson, director of media relations at Bluefield State College said. “I was working for an optometrist, and Tiny was driving school bus. Pete Cooke was the Mercer County school superintendent back then and he rarely called school off. Tiny was reporting about a major snowstorm coming out way, and he reported that Mercer County was on a delay schedule, and added: ‘School bus 290 will not make its usual run. He was telling the families on his bus route that he wouldn’t be running the next morning.”
Nelson started working at the television station part time in the late 1960s when he was in college at West Virginia University. Nelson was pressed into service as sports reporter when the late Ed Elliott had to step aside when he was running for mayor in Bluefield.
“When he was on camera, Tiny was serious about the news, but when he was off camera, he was always doing things to crack you up,” Nelson said. “He also had an ‘in’ with all the local rescue squads and he got news about wrecks before anyone else did. He would arrive at the news set at 11 p.m. and start reading the news as soon as he came in. He never read the script before he started.
“He had trouble with some words, but he would keep on going,” Nelson said. “I remember him reading an international news story, and he said: ‘Israeli Prime Minister Big word, Big word,’ and kept on reading. That was a time when it was live news. Tiny would ride to the studio on his motorcycle and start reading the news.”
During his last few years on air, Thompson worked as director of the ancillary services department at Bluefield Community Hospital (now Bluefield Regional Medical Center) and also operated his own limousine service for a few years in the mid-1990s. He also served several years as chairman of the board of the Bluefield Rescue Squad.
“It’s hard to think of Tiny and not smile,” Nelson said. “We flew by the seat of our pants, but we had a good time in every broadcast.”
The Mercer Funeral Home & Crematory of Bluefield is serving the Thompson family.