Under different circumstances, Walter Hill may have been synonymous with making fabled calls known by generations of LSU fans.
The radio man and broadcaster cut his teeth at WJBO-AM and led the broadcast for Southeastern Louisiana football games.
But later he worked alongside John Ferguson, partnering with that iconic voice on autumn nights covering the Tigers on WWL-AM’s 50,000-watt signal.
“He had more talent in that area than he had an opportunity to perform,” said Bud Johnson, a former LSU sports information director and current director of the Andonie Museum on the Baton Rouge campus.
Still, Tigers fans of a certain era still remember Hill, who also served for 25 years as sports director at WBRZ, describing seminal moments in the program’s history.
Hill died early Saturday after a prolonged illness at River Oaks Retirement Manor in Lafayette, said his son, C. Michael Hill. He was 86.
After a stint serving in the U.S. Merchant Marines, Hill returned to Baton Rouge and began his career at WJBO, eventually serving as news and sports director for the station.
During the 1950s, he struck up a friendship with Ferguson, who later would hire him as an anchor for local TV and bring him into the radio booth at Tiger Stadium.
“It all started because he needed a spotter one day, and I was the only guy who could do it,” Hill told The Advocate in December 2005 after Ferguson’s death at age 85.
The tandem’s tenure started in 1961 after WJBO landed broadcast rights from WLCS. LSU broadcasts were also carried by WWL and Shreveport’s KWKH-AM, which both had strong enough signals to make sure night broadcasts carried well outside the South.
“The games were broadcast to the greater part of the country,” Johnson said. “You could hear a LSU game in the Midwest all the way to Chicago.”
That partly influenced the style adopted by Hill and Ferguson. Both were known for a no-frills approach, based largely on a professional style rooted in calmly reporting the action as it unfolded.
“The concept was to be more network than rah-rah in making calls,” Johnson said.
Jim Corbett, who was LSU’s athletic director from 1954-67, liked the pairing because Hill provided insurance if something were to happen to Ferguson.
Meanwhile, Hill chipped in analysis of on-field action but also did the lead-in to broadcasts, handled advertisements and oversaw the halftime show.
“Walter was a meticulous interviewer,” Johnson said. “He always had interesting guests at halftime — from college scouts to professional scouts, former LSU coaches and players.”
After current analyst Doug Moreau, an All-America tight end for the Tigers, took over for Hill in the late ’70s, Hill retained his duties at WBRZ as a weekend sports anchor and occasional weatherman until he retired in 1986.
He is survived by his wife, Sue; two sons, C. Michael and Stan L. Hill; and four grandchildren, Brian P. Hill, Adam J. Hill, Darren M. Hill and Jennifer L. Arnold.
Funeral arrangements are pending.