Through more than a third of a century of springtime tornadoes, August heat advisories and even December carols at his grand piano, Ned Perme cemented a place on Arkansas’ airwaves as chief meteorologist at KATV, Channel 7 in Little Rock.
But now he’s decided “it’s time.” Perme, 63, told News Director Nick Genty on Tuesday that he’ll be retiring after 34 years at Channel 7 and a total of 40 years in broadcasting. No specific date is set, Genty told Arkansas Business, but Perme’s everyday role is expected to end this year.
“My career has been a dream come true,” Perme said in an article announcing his decision on KATV.com. “For more than three decades, Arkansans have invited me into their homes each evening and have trusted me as their weatherman. It has truly been a privilege, and I cherish my relationship with viewers. But all good things must come to an end, and I’ve decided that it’s time for me to sign off for the last time.”
Through the years, Perme worked with some of the biggest names in Arkansas TV news, from sportscasting legend Paul Eells to Chris May, Gina Kurre and Karen Fuller, who all went on to success in bigger markets. He covered deadly weather events like the snowstorm of January 1988, when up to 15 inches buried the Little Rock area; the tornado swarm of March 1, 1997, which killed two dozen people; and the Mayflower-Vilonia killer tornado of April 27, 2014.
“It’s not a bad day here at Channel 7, but it’s a bit of a shocker,” Genty said, even though he and Perme had been discussing Perme’s plans to ease toward retirement. “I can’t tell you how many people routinely tell Ned that they grew up watching him. Everybody loves Ned, including co-workers at the station. He always comes in pleasant, you know what to expect, and he really lives his job. And of course he’s not going anywhere immediately. We still have some details to work out on that.”
Perme began his TV career in 1977 in Mobile, Alabama, and joined KATV in 1984, joining the ABC affiliate as chief meteorologist. He won distinction with 14 “Best Weathercast” awards presented by The Associated Press, the station said.
“Ned is one of a kind and is a major reason why Channel 7’s 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts have remained No. 1 for so many years,” KATV General Manager Mark Rose said in a statement. “He’s been a part of the fabric of our KATV family for decades, and we wish him nothing but the very best as he begins his next chapter.”
Along with his weather reports, Perme was known for his “Friday Night Tailgate” segments during high school football season and for “Christmastime in Arkansas,” which he wrote and commissioned the late Terry Rose to sing.
It evolved into a Yuletide staple at KATV, a “family tradition,” Genty said. “We’re going to continue that, certainly.” The song was nominated for an Emmy Award, and the image of the tanned, handsome weatherman on the piano stool became a holiday treat for many fans.
Colleagues were quick to lament Perme’s leaving, but to also wish him well.
“He’s the single most important and impactful figure in the history of Arkansas broadcasting,” said May, KATV’s nightly anchor, posting on Twitter. “He’s also a great friend who changed the course of my life.”
Fellow weatherman Barry Brandt called Perme “THE staple of local TV news” in Arkansas. “I’m proud to have been alongside him for the past 21 years. This really doesn’t feel real, but as he said, ‘you know when it’s time.’”
Jessica Dean, now an anchor in Philadelphia, tweeted that Perme is a true legend. “One of the great joys of my career was getting to know and work with @KATVNed. Arkansas TV will not be the same without him.”
Genty said he didn’t grill Perme about his plans, but he’s sure that spending time with his grandchildren will be a priority. “Ned’s legacy spans generations,” Genty said. “He’s completing his career as the state’s most experienced television meteorologist and one of Arkansas’ most beloved TV personalities. While we are sad to see him go, we are excited that he’ll be able to spend more time playing music and spending time with his grandchildren. Job well done, Ned!”