Funeral service held Tuesday for former TV reporter and longtime FDOT spokesperson
UPDATE: Tuesday, June 6, 2017 9:01 p.m.
Hundreds gathered at Evangel Worship Center in Marianna on Tuesday to honor the life of former FDOT spokesperson and WTVY reporter Tommie Speights.
There was such a large number of people in attendance that they nearly ran out of parking spaces.
The funeral included prayer, song, and a message from Speight's wife, Lilly.
We all have many chapters which make up the book of our life. Some of those chapters stand out more than others. Such was the case for Tommie Speights.
Speights spent decades as a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation, covering northwest Florida. But before giving the public the latest information on road projects in the Panhandle, Speights was a groundbreaking reporter.
Speights was the first African-American reporter in the Dothan, Alabama, or Panama City, Florida, television markets when he was hired by our sister station WTVY-TV in Dothan, as its Jackson County Bureau reporter. He actually started at WTVY as a studio camera operator. It was longtime tv host Ann Varnum who lobbied both the station owner and the station's news director to give Tommie a shot as a reporter,which it did in the mid 1970s.
The move paid off handsomely for WTVY as Speights was an ace at breaking news.
He covered stories from Marianna to Crestview, and did it well for many years. Longtime colleague Wayne May, who still works at WTVY, said when he was competing against Speights, he often got beat, but there was no shame in that. Speights was just that good at what he did.
After his career in TV, it was time for Speights' next chapter, this time working for FDOT as its Public Information Officer. He did that for 22 years, before retiring in October of 2011.
Speights was universally loved and respected by people throughout northwest Florida for his honesty and the fact that once you met him, he treated you like a friend for life.
Speights' funeral is Tuesday at 3PM. It will be held at Evangel Worship Center on Pebble Hill Road in Marianna. Burial will follow at Orange Hill cemetery in Marianna.
Speights is survived by his wife Lilly and their three children Shelia, Ronald, and Marisa.