Broadcaster Craig O’Neill can go back to being plain old Randy now, if he chooses.
After calling off retirement three times, the KTHV-TV news anchor is finally calling it quits after a three-decade radio career and then 24 years with the Little Rock CBS affiliate, the station announced Monday.
His last broadcast is set for 10 p.m. on Dec. 29.
“Yes, I’m retiring and this time I mean it,” O’Neill said on KTHV’s website. KTHV and Arkansas Business have a news-sharing partnership.
He last put off retirement two years ago, when he was 71. He was born Randy Hankins in Little Rock at the old St. Vincent Infirmary in 1950. But the name on his birth certificate was “too country sounding” by the time O’Neill took to the airwaves in Little Rock in 1972. A boss had already paid for jingles promoting a new DJ named “Craig O’Neill,” and taking the job meant accepting the name.
So it was “Craig O’Neill” that built his career as a top morning DJ in central Arkansas in the 1970s and 1980s, starting at KAAY-AM in Little Rock, “the Mighty 1090.” But the rubber-faced, Mick Jagger-lipped announcer gained his greatest radio fame with on-air pranks and a zany sense of humor at KLAZ-FM. His characters and gags quickly built a fan base that made him Little Rock’s most sought-after MC for charity events.
Before giving up that work a few years ago, he logged 9,000 events over 40 years, helping to raise more than $40 million for Arkansas causes and communities.
“Now I get called Randy at home, and by family and old friends; or by lawyers,” O’Neill told Arkansas Business. His wife, the former Ruth Jane Fryer, is a widely known Little Rock artist.
O’Neill joined Channel 11 as a sports anchor on Jan 1, 2000, and only later led the news desk. He was one of the most consistent anchors in a town known for anchors’ longevity, and he offered a steady baritone voice through an unsteady time after COVID-19 struck in 2020.
He called off his last retirement plan “because we’ve got to win this war against COVID,” he said. He also wanted to get back to his longtime volunteering as a reader to schoolchildren. “There are just too many great stories to tell.”
Though a proud graduate of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, O’Neill is a lifelong fan of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. His zeal as a fan easily translated into his sportscasting.
“Craig’s contributions to Central Arkansas are notable from his undying commitment to improving the lives of Arkansans to his irreverent sense of humor that had us all wanting more,” said Marty Schack, president and general manager at THV11. “He is a treasure to our community and while we may not see him on air after this year, I know that Craig will continue to make an impact on Arkansans young and old.”
O’Neill’s TV career included a regional Emmy award and the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award. This year, he was inducted into the NATAS Mid-America Gold Circle for his 50-plus years in broadcasting.
“The only thing I’ll say,” O’Neill said, “is that it is time to move on and leave THV11 in the capable hands of the strong personalities that grace the B.J. Sams Studio day and night. At THV11, our legacy is our strength.”
Former KARK anchor and retired Arkansas Broadcasting Association Executive Director Doug Krile told Arkansas Business, “I truly think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with a bad thing to say about Craig. And that is rare. Very rare.”