Ash is a native of Logan County, born and raised in Atlanta with his
two sisters, Julie and Lori. His parents, Jim and Lora Jane, were
well-known throughout the community. He attended Atlanta Junior High
and was in one of the first classes to graduate from Olympia when
the districts consolidated.
It was while he was a student at
Lincoln College that Jim found his career choice. A business major,
Ash took a broadcasting class, and once he went on the air at WLNX,
he knew what he wanted to do. Switching his major from business
administration to mass communications, Jim received his degree from
Sangamon State University.
While at Sangamon, Ash worked the school's radio station and
received his first paid job in 1979 with television Channel 55 in
the news department. Quickly he was promoted to sports director, but
in 1980 Fox Network bought the station and everyone was looking for
a new job.
Jim was lucky enough to find local employment when he was hired
part time by WPRC in Lincoln. Soon he was working full time. It was
at PRC that he honed his skills and learned everything about the
radio business, from broadcasting to production to the technical
aspects of the medium. It was also there that he started three
decades of "conversation" with the community.
While at WPRC, Ash worked a morning show for a time with veteran
radio personality Judy Busby. Busby was pleased that she was asked
to say a few words about Jim. "He is so dear," she said. "He was
just a kid when he started with us. I knew his grandparents, his
parents. Jim is such a fine man; his whole family is a wonderful
family." Busby, along with co-host Bill Gossett, has been reunited
with Ash on Wednesday mornings to continue the long, on-air, off-air
friendship. "It has been a joy knowing Jim -- every minute," Judy
It was while at PRC that friends at the radio station introduced
Jim to his wife, Laura. "They wanted to get us together," Jim said.
"They thought we would hit it off, and then we met at a party in
December of 1983." Noting the two were married in March of 1984,
Ash, in classic understatement added, "I guess it worked." Jim and
Laura have three children, Ryan, Justin and Molly. The family lives
in the house on Park Place that was Jim's grandparents' home.
While at PRC, Ash formed many friendships and contacts as he
learned everything about the business. Everyone says that Jim,
although easygoing and good-natured, takes his craft seriously. Bob
Metz, another veteran from the PRC days, started a friendship with
Jim back then that has spanned three decades. "I've known Jim Ash
for more years that I care to count -- back to his days at WPRC when
he was the news director and I was doing a Sunday night oldies
show," Metz said. "He is one-of-a-kind. Dedicated and serious about
any job that he does. He knows his business and does it well. He's
the kind of person you can call on in a pinch and he'd be there for
Although Ash is a consummate professional when reporting on air,
friends and listeners know he has a strong sense of humor and enjoys
a joke as much as anyone. And he has brought that enjoyment of
sharing stories, laughs and just having fun with listeners to his
morning shows for almost 30 years.
In his almost 20 years at PRC, Jim worked with a plethora of
on-air personalities. Besides Busby, he has vivid recollections of
all, especially Mark Grote, Bob Verderber and Sam Madonia. Madonia,
now with WFMB in Springfield, is an old friend, but Jim had to smile
about his early days working Railer games with Sam. "I couldn't get
a word in," he recalled with a laugh.
When asked about his most memorable interviews over the decades,
Ash, a passionate Cardinals fan, quickly said, "Ken Boyer and Keith
Hernandez come to mind. I also interviewed (baseball hall of famer)
Red Schoendiest. He had written his biography, and I called the
Cardinals to see if I could arrange an interview. They gave me Red's
home phone number. When I called he answered the phone, said he had
some time as his wife was out walking the dog, and we did the
interview right then."
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Although Jim and his voice are well-known in the community, he has
an air of humbleness in his demeanor. He finds no need to be in the
limelight and is actually a quiet person away from the microphone.
Never one to upstage someone he interviews, Jim always lets the
person tell their story, acting just as a means to keep an interview
Although Jim prides himself on being prepared, he can do his job
at a moment's notice when needed. When Illinois Supreme Court
nominee Rita Garman came to Lincoln, Ash, with 10 minutes' notice,
ran over to the Blue Dog Inn to interview her. When the interview
was over, the judge stated that Jim's interview was one of the best
she had during her travels around the state.
Although many have tried to sidetrack Jim or get him off target
during a broadcast, rarely does he get flustered or miss a beat.
Circumstances also don't fluster this old pro.
Once when doing the play-by-play of a Railer game with Peoria
Manual, a strange situation presented itself. Manual had three
players named Williams on the team, and the Railers also had a
player named Williams. When the game started out with a Williams
passes the ball to Williams guarded by Williams, Ash, without
dropping a moment of his play-by-play, looked at the roster and
immediately started adding first names in his call. His color man
had more of a problem. When Jim asked for stats at halftime, the
color man said, "I think Williams got all the points."
When PRC closed in 1999, Ash had a rough decision to make. He had
complete skills in radio for an impressive resume, but he really
wanted to stay in Logan County. "I thought about it (moving
somewhere else) but I never pursued anything," he said. "I wanted to
stay here if at all possible."
For two years, just to keep some money coming in, Jim worked
public radio in Springfield in the morning and then worked for the
local cable channel he was a partner in at night. It wasn't an ideal
situation, but it allowed Jim to stay in the career he loved, in the
community he loved.
When a new station, WLCN, opened in 2001, Jim got the job and has
been the one-man operation since. He is on air, station manager,
office manager, producer and technician at the station down Lazy Row
in Atlanta. With all he does, he still enjoys getting up at 5 a.m.
and preparing the morning show he does with Steve Sauer. Sauer, now
the morning co-host for almost two years, said: "Jim was kind enough
to give me an opportunity to do something I have wanted to do since
high school -- perform as a radio DJ. He has made my retirement fun
from 5:45 till 8:15 every weekday morning. I have learned a lot
about the radio business, and I consider Jim a good teacher and a
Perhaps Jeff Benjamin who works with Jim at WLCN
on Railer broadcasts and was a coworker at WPRC sums up the
accolades the best. "If there was a radio Hall of Fame for Logan
County Jim would have to be in it."
After 30 years Ash still has a love for his job that is
admirable. "Every day is different because the news is different,"
he said. "I feel lost when I have a day off. I feel like I'm
It is this love for telling all of us the news each day, the good
friend he is to so many, and his love for making conversation with
the community that makes Jim Ash our Personality of the Week.