Bulldogs of the Fourth Estate: Bill Hartman

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Bulldogs of the Fourth Estate: Bill Hartman

Bulldawg Illustrated continues its series, featuring long-time UGA personalities of the Fourth Estate. There are many who are published authors along with network television superstars. Our sixth installment spotlights Grady alumnus and former longtime Atlanta TV sports broadcaster Bill Hartman.

In June of 1970, Bill Hartman III, the son of one of Georgia’s legendary personalities, became the 11 p.m. sports anchor at WAGA TV in Atlanta.





Just two days prior, he had graduated from the University of Georgia’s Henry Grady College of Journalism. From the campus to the evening newscast of one of the top stations in the country’s 12th TV market, but a decade later would crack the top ten markets in the country. That giant leap in TV, would be like skipping the minor leagues and starting for a Big-League team as a rookie.

That was the beginning of a journey that would span 35 years (less two years spent with the U. S. Air Force and one as Assistant Sports Information Director with the celebrated Dan Magill) with WAGA and subsequently WSB-TV. When it came time for retirement in August 2008, he continued to cover high school football in Georgia for his former employer Chanel 5. His post retirement high school gig with the station continued for 13 years.

“In many ways that was more fun than covering the college and pro sports teams,” he says. “We went live from the field a lot of times. The coaches were up for most anything because they appreciated the coverage.” Not to be overlooked in this was that he is a grass roots reporter. He thinks Friday Night Lights is great for our country.





It was a godsend, he says, to have covered the Braves in the 90s “when they won all those divisional championships.” He became friends with Bobby Cox, pitchers John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox.

He was in Tokyo when the announcement was made that Atlanta would host the 1996 Olympics. He had become friends with Billy Payne, dating to their days as classmates at Georgia. Not a bad circumstance for being friends with the man who masterminded Atlanta’s bid for the Games. In Tokyo the night before the announcement, Bill had been in a production meeting with the official Japanese producers of the event, which only Bill had attended among Atlanta media representatives.

That familiarity led to him being given a microphone with instructions to get on the stage where he interviewed Billy Payne, Mayor Maynard Jackson and other officials on a satellite feed which went across the world—the ultimate scoop of his career.

Today, in retirement, he plays golf at the Georgia Club and principally follows the Bulldogs, which he started doing when he was in grade school. He could even walk to UGA football practice from the family home on Dearing Street.

He learned the inside story of the Bulldogs from his well-connected father, Bill Hartman Jr., who was a confidante of Coach Wallace Butts and his backfield coach for many years. The senior Hartman developed a successful insurance agency on the side and would eventually become Chairman of the Georgia Student Educational Fund which evolved into the fund which bears his name today.

If there were breaking news in Athens during Bill’s TV career in Atlanta, he could rely on his mother, Ruth, to inform him what was going on. If she eaves-dropped on her husband’s conversations, she would ring up young Bill and share with him what she knew. While there was never a major controversy internally, Bill, the TV reporter, did enjoy a scoop or two.

Anyone familiar with the Hartman legacy realizes that the demeanor of the father was passed on to the son. William Coleman Hartman Jr., a model alumnus who was always making behind the scenes contributions to UGA, was a man given to laid back living with a measured style of giving back. He was never too high or too low emotionally which enabled him to maintain friendships on both sides of an issue which greatly benefitted the University.

The son, a broadcaster with insightful, fact filled presentations never went into a rant. That would have been as unthinkable as a Hartman dressing in anything other than Red and Black. He never was depressed or down. He enjoyed his work and made a lot of friends for his station(s) with his style, integrity, and modus operandi.

Bill’s career included interaction with some of the biggest names in sport—from Hank Aaron of the Braves to Muhammed Ali, the great prize fighter, the major college and professional coaches who passed through Atlanta and countless sports personalities who visited Atlanta.

He would address issues when appropriate, but mainly he wanted to tell the story of happenings on the Atlanta sports scene and finding off beat stories that warmed the hearts of viewers. He covered the Braves, Falcons and other sports teams when they went to the World Series and the Super Bowl. When his alma mater won the national collegiate football championship in New Orleans in 1980, he was there covering the event with professional dignity but underneath a very proud alumnus who literally grew up on Georgia Bulldog football.

When Georgia Tech won a national title in 1990, he covered the Yellow Jackets’ championship run in a manner befitting his role as an Atlanta broadcaster. “I knew the coaches and players at Georgia when they won the championship in 1980 and it was the same with Tech ten years later. I was friends with both teams and enjoyed relationships with each school.”

To enjoy the journey Bill Hartman experienced and look back, realizing you were competent—and was also universally known as a gentleman—has to be rewarding and fulfilling.





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