Play on, my friend, with a whistle or a mic

Published 3:50 pm Sunday, May 12, 2019

There is something about the voice – or, ‘pipes’ as they say in the radio business – of an announcer.

For Randy Jones, it was probably that sort of scratchy nasal baritone that made you know it was him, and remember that sound whenever you heard it again.

And this was whether he was speaking on the playing field, or over the airwaves.

Maybe it was because he stood all of five-foot-six, but what he may have lacked in stature, he more than made up for in heart.

There were three things Randy loved above anything else: his family, participation in sports events, and Elizabeth City State University. And those last two in no particular order.

A native of Halifax County, Randy was a 1996 graduate of ECSU where he earned a degree in physical education and health. He would go on to work at his alma mater, and announce ECSU athletic events for the next 21 years.

Randy was the “Voice of the Vikings” on WRVS-FM 89.9 in Elizabeth City. But he was more than a voice, he bled red-and-blue. When a change in administration nearly cost him the post, he vehemently stood up for his unbiased coverage. He wasn’t afraid to be candid, though he never let that candor dissuade his objectivity when he felt it necessary to cast a critical eye.

If he expressed an opinion on something he saw with ECSU on the field, then he was keenly aware his reaction might institute backlash from higher-ups. But as he expressed to me on more than one instance: “It’s because I love this place so much; I really, really do.”

Thanks to Randy’s leadership, WRVS-FM also broadcast various high school sporting events across northeastern North Carolina from the 1A Albemarle Atlantic and the 2A Northeastern Coastal Conferences, stretching from the Roanoke-Chowan clear to the coast.

One of his passions was to moderate the Northeastern NC High School Football Media Day, where as many as a dozen football coaches and players gave a preview of the upcoming prep season on the gridiron.

Speaking of the gridiron, that was just one of the other sporting venues where you would run across Randy. Whether in a striped shirt in the fall, a grey one in winter, or a blue one in springtime, he also loved officiating; from football, to basketball, to volleyball, and on to baseball and softball.

“He never T’d me up (called for a technical foul),” recalled Hertford County High basketball coach and athletic director Charles Simmons. “I didn’t agree with some of his calls and when I did, I’d let him know it. But, overall, he was a good guy and a good referee, and my condolences go out to his family.”

Edenton Holmes coach Robert Woodley told the Elizabeth City Daily Advance that Jones’ passing was “a sad day for all us, especially in northeastern North Carolina.”

“Whenever Randy was officiating my games there was never a doubt that both teams would get a fair game,” Woodley said. “That was him and we all loved him for his way. I feel lucky to have known him, I am blessed by him and he will be missed by all.”

On a personal note, Randy once said of officiating, “The hours are bad, the pay is low, and everybody knows more than you do. Is anybody going to boo you over that bad story you wrote last week?”

Well, they might.

Randy passed away this week unexpectedly. To say I’ll miss him is an understatement.

Once when he was officiating a basketball game, he made a call that no one in the building who had seen it would have agreed with, and the boos rained down. During a time out, when he came over to the scorer’s table near where I was seated, I asked him if it was a good call.

“Maybe not, Gene … but it was the right call,” he replied.

Then he gave me one of his sly winks, stuck his whistle back in his mouth, and grinning, backpedaled his way back up court.

I had to smile, because that was typical Randy.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or call 252-332-7211.