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Bob Coxe retiring Friday from WSB radio after 23 years

Bob Coxe
Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

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Bob Coxe, a long-time morning news fixture at 95.5 FM and AM750 News/Talk WSB,  is going to do his final newcast Friday after 23 years at the station.

He decided two years ago that his current contract would be his last. "I'm 66," he said. "It's always a good idea if you can retire at a time you set and not when everyone else knows it's time to go."

Coxe said he feels sort of like his hero Mickey Mantle near the end of his storied baseball career. "You don't have the physical energy, the concentration or mental acuity to do it at hte standard you'd hope to set for yourself," he said. "Plus, the hours are punishing."

He has to go to sleep at 5 p.m. and wake up at midnight. He's in the newsroom no later than 2 a.m. to prep for the show that runs from 4:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Slade begs to differ. "I feel like he's going out like Sandy Koufax," a pitcher who won a Cy Young Award before retiring. He loved how Coxe could throw in an historical reference, a characteriation, a bon mot that enhanced a story. "You could ask Bob a question on the air and without prompting, he will always give you a great answer. He is legendary with his dry wit. He's still got it."

Coxe will be replaced by Judd Hickinbotham, who will work along side Marcy Williams, Coxe's self-described "work wife" for the past 21 years. "Judd is a good news man," Coxe said. "He will do just fine. He's very versatile."

Prior to WSB, he worked for more than 12 years at rival 640/WGST-AM when that station had a sizable news staff. He joined WSB in 1991 as a part-timer helping out the then morning show hosted by the late great "Skinny" Bobby Harper, Kathy Fischman and Kim "The Kimmer" Peterson (now at All News 106.7).

He later joined the revamped morning show led by host Scott Slade and traffic reporter "Captain Herb" Emory and meteorologist Kirk Mellish.  Williams joined him soon after. That lineup has been more or less in place for two decades and ratings have been consistently strong.

"People tend to stick around for awhile, which speaks well of it," Coxe noted in understated fashion.

Slade said Coxe and Williams brought a special chemistry on air while off air, he'd tease them since they are both Princeton University grads. "They both brought this Yankee sensibility," he said, "which is always refreshing for an old Southern guy like me."

A Cobb County resident, Coxe isn't sure what he'll do in retirement but hopes to find a worthwhile endeavor "so I don't get in my wife's hair." (Piano is a possibility and perhaps ice skating.)

The two hottest stories that happened on his watch: 9/11 and the Brian Nichols Fulton County courthouse shooting.

And the closest he got to being killed? When Eric Rudolph bombed a Sandy Spring abortion clinic in 1997, he was assigned to check the damage. At one point, he was about to peer inside a garbage dumpster. Then he got distracted and strolled over to a bunch of other people 50 yards away. He was lucky. Rudolph (who also bombed Centennial Olympic Park) had planted a timed bomb there that went off minutes after he was in the vicinity.

He said his news delivery is a little different now than in 1993. "Stories are tighter," he said. "We talk shorter. We write shorter." Taped stories go no longer than 30 sesconds. In the early 1990s, the upper limit was more like 45 seconds. That means more elements, more stories to research in the wee hours.

Coxe also has a name that sounds just like his employer, Cox Media Group. "People always ask me if I'm part of the family," he said. "Just a coincidence."

Slade said he is planning a "mini roast' of Coxe during the 8:35 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. period Friday morning as a farewell.

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