Longtime WRAL anchor Bill Leslie will retire at the end of this month, but before he leaves the station, he'll make a point to say personal goodbyes to many of the viewers who have watched him deliver the news over the years.
Leslie, who has been at WRAL for more than three decades, launches his five-day farewell tour across the WRAL viewing area on Monday. The tour kicks off in Raleigh at Mia Francesca restaurant at North Hills. Leslie then heads to Smithfield, Cary, Fayetteville and Durham.
At each stop, Leslie will sign autographs, hand out Bill Leslie merchandise and chat with friends and fans. WRAL indicates that Leslie, an accomplished musician and recording artist, might even perform.
Leslie, a Morganton native, has spent more than 46 years in broadcasting. About 34 of those years have been at WRAL, where he started in 1984 as a managing editor, and 25 of those he has spent behind the morning and noon anchor desk.
The week of June 25-29 will be Leslie's last week anchoring. WRAL will have surprises for Leslie during the morning and noon newscasts and will air greetings from viewers.
A half-hour special called "Bill Leslie: An Extraordinary Career" will look back at Leslie's broadcasting career and air at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 28. Leslie's final newscast will be Friday, June 29, at noon.
WRAL hired Jeff Hogan from WBNS in Columbus, Ohio, back in January, with the plan that Hogan would take over co-anchoring morning and noon when Leslie retired.
An accomplished career
Leslie has more than 75 major awards during his career, including two Peabody Awards and five Emmys. He was WRAL’s environmental reporter from 1989-1993, reporting on the U.S. Navy dumping garbage off of the N.C. coast and the Pfiesteria outbreak that killed millions of fish in N.C. rivers. Leslie was also the Tar Heel Traveler.
While he is most well known as a WRAL anchor, he’s also well known as an accomplished musician. He is the composer, producer, arranger and performer on eight Celtic fusion CDs, which have topped the New Age music charts.
When Leslie announced his retirement last fall, he said he has many things he’d like to do when he retires.
“I’d like to elevate my skills as a photographer. I’d like to learn how to play the hammered dulcimer. I want to write a second book. I’d love to compose a soundtrack for a movie. I’d like to do some more serious hiking like I did in New Zealand in 2009. I may also take a yoga class. Plus, I want to find new ways to help others through public service.”
The schedule for Bill Leslie's farewell tour
Each meet-and-greet will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
▪ Monday, June 18: Mia Francesca restaurant at North Hills, Raleigh
▪ Tuesday, June 19: Johnston Community College, Wilson Building, Smithfield
▪ Wednesday, June 20: The Cary Theatre, Cary
▪ Thursday, June 21: The Arts Council, Fayetteville
▪ Friday: American Tobacco Campus, Crowe Lobby, Durham