Spann just ‘couldn’t say no’ to Greenville

Published 2:19 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2012

While loud thunder, large hail and flashes of lighting might scare most young children, James Spann said he just couldn’t get enough.

“I guess I’ve loved (weather) since I was child,” Spann said. “I think certain people are born with this internal fascination with weather and I have no idea why. That’s just the way I was made.”

Many know Spann from his daily appearances as a chief meteorologist on ABC 33/40’s weather spot or his part on the Rick and Bubba show, but Spann said he got his first meteorologist experience in the field while he was in high school.

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“Until this year with the large storms, the last large break of storms was in April of 1974, and I was a senior in high school,” Spann said. “They allowed me some time off to go into some of the hard hit areas. Some of those events in the ‘70s totally blew me away.”

Spann has been with ABC 33/40 since 1996 and has loved every minute, primarily because the station allows him complete control if severe weather breaks.

“We were able to set a great severe weather policy,” Spann said. “If any county in the market goes under a tornado warning, we stay on the air, and it doesn’t matter.”

Many wonder how someone can stand for hours on end reporting on weather events, but for Spann, he said it’s a piece of cake.

“Over the last 16 years, we did a lot of long-term coverage,” Spann said. “We’ve done over 10 hours, but the adrenaline flows, and it has never bothered me. Most TV people who have a passion for weather can stand up there with ease.”

Through all of his years, the one thing that truly keeps Spann going is the possibility that he is helping and saving lives.

“I help people during life threatening weather,” Spann said. “I’ve been very blessed in having an open door for doing what we need to do because we stay on television a long time, and I like to think that we make a difference. That makes it all worth while.”

Through his younger days and even now, Spann said he has looked to past and present weathermen as role models. Some of which include WSFA’s Ralph Williams.

“Back in the young days in Greenville, you could only pick up one TV station, and he was the only TV weatherman I ever watched,” Spann said.

After Spann moved from Greenville in fourth grade and went to Tuscaloosa after his father abandoned he and his mother, he started watching J.B. Elliot who still continues to write for ABC 33/40’s broadcast as well as Dan Atkinson.

Spann is more than just a man who knows how to predict the weather though. Not only does he lead children’s worship at his church in Birmingham, he is also a chairman of the board of a major hospital.
“I’m a big believer in healthcare, because one day I may need it,” Spann said. “Those are the biggest external jobs I do, which are very rewarding.”

As for returning to Greenville after being asked to be the guest speaker at the annual Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce banquet, he said he just couldn’t say no.

“I think about Greenville all the time,” Spann said. “We lived on Forest Drive – the second house on the right in that brick house, and I loved it. I always wonder what would have happened if I had stayed. I will cherish those days there. I have very clear memories just like it was yesterday.”

He remembers the days of going to school at the old W.O Parmer building and being schoolmates with Mayor Dexter McLendon.

“Our first grade teacher would call each of us by our last names, so we didn’t know each other’s first names,” Spann said. “I always called him McLendon and he called me Spann. I was delighted when he called me when he was elected mayor. I just thought it was too cool. I will cherish the days living there.”

As for the banquet, Spann said he is just excited to visit with friends he hasn’t seen in about 45 years.

“When I was asked to come down there and speak, I said I will make it happen,” Spann said. “I will take off from work that night. Whatever it takes, I will be there. I am greatly looking forward to coming down there that night. I think most people know who I am through social media and Rick and Bubba, but some of those old people may know exactly who I am, and I’m really looking forward to seeing some people that I have not seen in 45 years. I think it’s going to be great.”