Second Ayers Chair, Lloyd Dobyns Jr. dies at 85

Courtesy of JSU News Bureau

Breanna Hill, Editor in Chief

Lloyd Dobyns Jr., the second Ayers Chair, died at the age of 85 on Sunday, August 19. According to his son, Ken Dobyns, he passed away in Mebane, N.C. following stroke-related complications.

Following his stellar journalism career Dobyns joined the JSU staff, landing him the position of Ayers Chair for the communication department, establishing relationships with familiar colleagues and professors, some of them still working at JSU today.

“He had a crusty exterior, but he was a softy at heart,” said Mike Stedham, director of student media. “He loved his students.”

Dobyns showcased his journalistic and reporting abilities all around the world after serving in the U.S. army. His career began as a reporter for WDBJ-TV located in Roanoke, VA during the year 1957. Following this reporting position he became a news anchor for WAVY-TV—the NBC affiliate located in the Tidewater area of Virginia—three years later, before advancing to the role of news director for the organization. 

After a successful stay in Virginia, Dobyns moved on to New York where he would take on the role of managing editor for WNEW-TV, and then moving on to becoming part of the NBC News team which would lead him to traveling the world as a foreign correspondent. 

He covered areas in Europe, the Middle East and Asia during his time as a foreign correspondent before eventually returning to New York. 

In 1975 he won a Peabody Award for his work as anchor for the TV news magazine Weekend. While working as anchor for Weekend, he came into contact with Linda Ellerbee, a fellow journalist, who would end up co-hosting the popular show with him. 

After his death, Ellerbee issued a statement. 

“He was a friend, teacher, trouble-maker, and a world class journalist,” Ellerbee said. “I shall miss him more than I can say.”

Following his anchor gig with Ellerbee he moved on to anchor Monitor, another TV magazine. He also reported on the differences in the way Japan’s manufacturing was booming while the U.S. was lagging behind in the field. This reporting came about through a documentary, “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?” and this led to him diving further into the subject, co-writing several, successful books about Japan and their economically-based success. 

Before his retirement in 1986, Dobyns had won more than two-dozen awards for his avid career in reporting, writing, and anchoring. 

Dobyns didn’t slow down after his retirement. He came to JSU to take on a position as a visiting Ayers professor for the 1993-94 school year, sharing his knowledge and stories with colleagues and students alike. 

“He took a lot of delight in sharing his experiences,” said Stedham. “He shared all his experiences such as him covering the war in Vietnam with me and his other colleagues.”

JSU alumni who were students on campus back in 1993 remember Dobyns for his storytelling abilities as well. 

“I found his classes entertaining. Lloyd Dobyns wasn’t from around here but he had been around the block, around the world,” said Ben Cunningham, a professor for the communications department. “He knew a little bit about everything, in the way that many journalists, especially very experienced journalists like him do.”

Cunningham took Dobyns’ internet research course as well as a director study course with him. Cunningham noted his dry wit was also something he enjoyed about the visiting professor. 

Dobyns was known as quick-witted and a natural-born storyteller to many, and this interpretation was shown time and time again throughout his career as a journalist, and, later on, as a professor. 

“Lloyd’s students and colleagues loved to hear his stories about journalism almost as much as he loved telling them,” said Stedham.

Students of Dobyns’ learned quite a bit within the year he spent as visiting professor. He was brought in by the communication department as part of a mentor program for students within the communication department.

“Most college-aged people don’t know what they don’t know, and Mr. Dobyns took it on himself to fill in those gaps in our knowledge about our own ignorance,” said Cunningham.

Dobyns’ extensive career spanned over decades and shows proof it will have a lasting impact upon thousands around the world. 

Dobyns is preceded in death by his son Brian and his brother Norman. He is survived by his wife Patti, three children Kenneth, Alison and Denise, and eight grandchildren.  

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