The 'Ernie' was created by Mike Clark as a way of conveying the appreciation of BIG 13 visitors have for the alumni's efforts in broadcasting at WTVT.   He explained how the 'Ernie'  name came about:

"TV has its Emmymovies have the Oscar, and our new honor, which I hope will become an annual tradition, needed a name as well," said Mike.  "I thought of calling it the 'The Hughy' after Hugh Smithbut 'Hughy' sounded too much like a helicopter.  Jim Benedict's nickname is 'Peaker,' but that name would take too much explanation.and 'The McGee' didn't sound right either.  I started watching the video tape of WTVT's 25th Anniversary broadcast for inspiration, and when a clip of Ernie Lee came on, it became obvious that the man who spent 33 years at Channel 13 and was universally loved and respected, should be the inspiration for the 'Ernie.' And besides, 'Ernie' sounds a little like 'Emmy.'"  

Ernie Lee's son Gordon accepts the award named for Channel 13's country gentleman.


Mike presented the first 'Ernie' to Ernie Lee's son Gordon Cornelison, who accepted on behalf of his family.  The Ernie inscription read "The Ernie, presented to Ernie Lee in appreciation of his musical talents, considerable charm, and lifetime achievements in radio and television and 33 years at WTVT, Tampa, Florida."  Gordon told the audience how "Ernie was so popular that people would stop us everywhere we wentthe grocery storethe moviesthe gas station,"  and that his mother Jean had burnt up "a lot of pots of coffee" waiting for Ernie to get past his fans and come home on time."  Gordon brought along tapes of Ernie's music and it was announced that the tunes would be digitally cleaned up and remastered onto a new CDto be offered to Ernie's fans through the BIG 13 web site with proceeds going to Ernie's family.  



Arch Deal was presenter for the next 'Ernie' to  "someone I referred to as 'the enemy'," the former Channel 8 anchorman joked.  "He was a formidable opponent in newsran a wonderful news department, and it's a great honor to present this Ernie to Hugh Smith, who served WTVT for 29 years."  Smith accepted the honor gracefully and Deal told the story of how Channel 13 had covered his near-fatal parachute accident in 1975.













Former WTVT sports reporter and anchor Pete Johnson was up to present the next  'Ernie' for the bigger-than-life 'Salty Sol' Fleischman.  "Sol was exactly the same as life as he was on the air," said Pete, adding that "Sol and Andy were great guys to work forthey let you go out and try ideas and go wild."   Fleishman's 'Ernie' carried the inscription "to 'Salty Sol' Fleischman, in appreciation of his contribution to Sports Broadcasting and to the history of WTVT".  Accepting the 'Ernie' for Fleischman's family was Sol's nephew (and a former production department employee) Dave Rosenblatt. (Dave is married to former Creative Services employee Merrily Miller).