After more than two decades at KTHV-TV that made him as familiar to morning viewers as the coffee pot, meteorologist and anchor Tom Brannon is leaving Channel 11 late this year.
He will be taking a job with Ron Sherman Productions, founded by another longtime Arkansas weatherman and based in southwest Little Rock. Sherman is a record-breaking maker of nationally aired commercials, often for home-improvement contractors.
Brannon's departure was announced Tuesday by Dave Parker, news director of the Little Rock CBS affiliate, who praised Brannon as "one of the hardest-working people in local TV." Parker said Brannon joined KTHV as a weekend meteorologist and weekday feature reporter, but within two years won a spot on "Today's THV This Morning," now known as "THV11 This Morning."
On the morning show, Brannon won fans through his friendly banter with a long line of co-hosts, including Robyn Richardson, Myke Motley, B.J. Sams, Alyson Courtney, Charley Crowson, Melissa Dunbar-Gates, Ashley Blackstone, Alyse Eady, Laura Monteverdi and Rob Evans.
"His dedication to the viewers and people in central Arkansas is unbelievable," Parker said.
Parker said that KTHV colleagues "will miss Tom, but we're happy for him and his family." Jessica Johnson Amis, the station's director of marketing, said in an email to Arkansas Business that "Tom will be working for Ron Sherman Productions as operations director."
Brannon, 49, said the shift to Sherman Productions would be a "natural transition," and that he had done work for the advertising agency several years ago. "I can even draw Gusty... not as good as Ron, though," Brannon said in a reference to the weather cartoon character Sherman drew for many years on-air.
Spurred to become a weatherman by a tornado that devastated his hometown, Cabot, in his third-grade year, Brannon once stayed on the air for an eight-hour on-air marathon with meteorologist Ed Buckner tracking a line of storms that produced an F-4 tornado in March 1997. The twister hit Arkadelphia and tore a swath northeast into the Little Rock area as the state's deadliest severe-weather outbreak in more than 30 years.
Brannon also spent 17 years leading KTHV's Summer Cereal Drive, which seeks to ensure a healthy breakfast for needy children through summer vacation. He was also a pal of Joey the Garden Cat, a stray who became Channel 11's mascot after making himself at home in KTHV's "Weather Garden" for years before his death in 2014. Brannon also regularly educated youngsters about meteorology in "Breakfast With Tom" visits to local schools.
A graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a certificate in broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University, Brannon is married and has a daughter. He said he thinks of KTHV and its viewers as family, too.
"I'm very blessed and lucky that viewers allowed me to come into their homes every morning over a cup of coffee or tea for the last 20-plus years," he told Arkansas Business. "I want to thank them for that, and for supporting the many endeavors we at THV11 have been a part of during that time."
(Arkansas Business and KTHV have a news-sharing partnership.)