Claude Gray

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Claude Mercer Gray (born May 1909 in Anniston, died October 5, 2009) is a former police dispatcher, radio announcer and conductor of the Birmingham Zoo Express.

Gray earned his degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He was one of the first radio dispatchers for the Birmingham Police Department. He made the department's first broadcast, signing onto WPFM-AM at Birmingham City Hall in June 1933. He began working with WAPI-AM in 1935 and left his job as a police dispatcher in 1937.

Gray was on the air during Orson Welles' adaptation of War of the Worlds in 1938 and answered 132 panicked calls to the station. In 1940 he took a job with the Federal Communication Commission, working to detect possible spy transmissions in the New Orleans area.

After retiring he became the engineer on the Birmingham Zoo Express train at the Birmingham Zoo, going by the name Engineer Claude. He stepped down from that position in 2003 after 20 years. He was a long time member of the Alabama Historical Radio Society.

Gray celebrated his 100th birthday with a visit to the communications room at the current Birmingham City Hall. He died a few months later.

References

  • Robinson, Carol (August 20, 2009) "Birmingham's earliest police dispatcher, now 100, revisits department's all-digital radio room." Birmingham News