MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Mel Showers had been on the job as a reporter at WKRG for about five years when a massive storm hit, the strongest the Mobile area had seen in decades.
“Hurricane Frederic! You could never forget that,” Mel said recently when looking back on his nearly 50-year career at WKRG-TV.
Following Frederic, there were long lines for gas, supplies, and ice. Power was scarce. NewsCenter-5 had to broadcast from outside its studio. Reporters, like Mel Showers, worked long days and hours, and there was no relief at home
“I lived, at the time, near downtown Mobile and at my house, we went six weeks without electricity,” Mel said. “That was a major problem, but we got through it.”
More major hurricanes would follow over the years and the nation’s biggest man-made disaster, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in 2010. Mel would cover those disasters as well.
Mel covered courts in the 1980s and reported on numerous trials that saw several Mobile leaders sent to prison
“I saw a lot of those corruption trials,” Mel said. “We had a period there where two of our city commissioners were sent to jail and two of our county commissioners had the same predicament.”
Mel also covered his fair share of political stories but says the most significant was the one that changed the way people were represented in the city.
“Maybe one of the biggest stories I covered was 1985 when the Mobile City Council was established in the City of Mobile,” Mel recalled. “That allowed three blacks to be on the city council. Before that, the three positions were elected at large. And it was impossible for a black person to be elected at large, at that time, in Mobile County.”
But Mel says there’s no doubt what was the biggest story he covered over 50 years.
“That’s one of the things, one of the stories that affected me quite a bit,” he said.
Teenager Michael Donald was killed by the KKK – his body hung from a tree.
“That supposedly was the last lynching the United States of America. That was here in Mobile, Alabama in 1981.”
Mel was on the scene the morning the body was found.
“I’m getting the call that there’s a body hanging from a tree on Hernodn Avenue and you better get over there. And sure enough, there was a body hanging from a tree on Herndon Avenue.”
Mel covered the mistrial of a black man for killing a Birmingham police officer that prompted the Klan’s “revenge” killing of a random black man.
He covered the eventual trial of the Klan members involved, and 16 years after the crime, he witnesses the end of the story, the execution of Henry Hayes.
“When I walked into the electrocution chamber, he saw me, he knew me from TV. And this Ku Klux Klansman did ‘this’ to me (thumbs up). And I was no further from him than from you to me from the electric chair where he was about to be put to death. Now look, I’m not in love with watching a human being be killed, but I was able to accept that death because of what he did to an innocent teenager who was just walking home from the store. And what they did to him made be able to watch that execution without any problem whatsoever in my heart. Ordinarily, that would have bothered me. But that didn’t bother me that night.”
After nearly 50 years, Mel will step down as co-anchor of News 5 at 6 pm and 10 pm on May 22.