City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Former WAGA anchor Jim Axel, 75, passes

jim axel

Jim Axel, a veteran WAGA-TV anchor for 34 years, died Saturday after a long battle with lung cancer, according to WAGA-TV.

Axel worked at WAGA-TV from 1962 until he retired in 1996.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer four years ago, the WAGA-TV story said. And he credited his wife for holding up as well as he did in an interview with his former station last year.

“I would hate to be where I am without her,” he said at the time. “She’s been wonderful. She makes sure the family gets through it. I can’t tell you enough what it has meant to have her. She’s supportive. She’s demanding. She’ll tell me what I need to have done whether I want to do it or not.”

Doug Richards, who works at WXIA-TV but spent many years at WAGA-TV, offered kind words about Axel on his Live Apartment Fire blog:

Axel was smart, passionate, occasionally surly and uncompromising in his standards of journalism. He had a twenty-plus year head-start on me, career-wise. If he could do it, I figured — maybe I can.

And long-time executive producer at WAGA Mark Shavin threw in his own thoughts, which are extremely touching. An excerpt here but please read the entire piece if you have a couple of minutes to spare:

He could be funny and solicitous one moment and gruff and short-tempered the next. He was of an age when news anchors were hard charging and larger than life. Jim took his role seriously. The news mattered. The trust of his audience mattered. His reputation mattered. If you were his producer, you developed a thick skin. If you stood your ground with Jim, he respected you, but you had to earn your stripes every day. I can remember countless times asking him to write a minute and a half piece on the big national or international story of the day, only to be met with a sharp rebuke.

Axel always wore a red tie. That was his siganture. Watch local Atlanta newscasts Monday. Many newscasters will be wearing red ties in tribute to Axel – including Richards.

I’ll add more to this on Monday when memorial details are announced.

21 comments Add your comment


November 15th, 2009
2:32 pm

He is a big part of my child and adulthood. Thank you to his family who had to share him with the public.


November 15th, 2009
2:48 pm

Jim was an awesome anchor ! I remember back around 1980 at Lenox Square he sat with some of us voter registrars (a registration drive) for a while and encouraged people to sign up to vote ! He was an active news anchor then. I will never forget the couple of hours he spent with us there. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and former co-workers.


November 15th, 2009
2:56 pm

The “whole entire”, as opposed to “partial entire”?


November 15th, 2009
5:31 pm

I saw him at Luckey Key near Northlake about 20 years ago. Don’t know what he ordered, didn’t talk to him. He was a good news anchor.


November 15th, 2009
5:31 pm

You don’t have any feel or knowledge of Atlanta broadcasting prior to 2000. To properly put Axel’s career in perspective you need to speak with Jeffrey Scott or someone who gets Atlanta that might still be employed by Cox. This ain’t Jenn Hobby or Larry Wachs… dig?
Ivan Allen

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

November 15th, 2009
5:52 pm

I’m sorry to hear this. He seemed like pretty good people and he always had a twinkle in his eyes. My sympathy to his family.


November 15th, 2009
6:02 pm

I was blessed to be one of his many interns at the start of my career. Thank you, Jim!

Dawg Fan 74

November 15th, 2009
6:19 pm

He will be missed.

Rodney Barber

November 15th, 2009
7:41 pm

I had the pleasure of working with Jim for 10 years but knew him for a lot longer than that. Jim was into perfection. That was with his personal life and his professional life. Jim was a father figure figure to me from the time a was just a kid. Jim taught me about finances. He taught me about being true to myself. But most of all he taught me that no matter what I did in life, put 100% behind what you did and it will not seem like a job to you. I would have fun and enjoy my work. Jim also told me that WAGA is paying you money to do a job and you better give them 100%.. I have always remembered that and to this day I put 110% behind my work and if feel I did not on any particular day I would not feel good about myself.

I went to Florida to see Jim on mothers day weekend. He was very thin but had recently got his energy back to have company. I came down to Florida with my adopted daughter Jade. Jim and Millie welcomed us with open arms. Pryor to coming to Florida, Jim called me a few times asking “what temperature do you like the pool” I said Jim it does not matter. Then he said “It matters to me”
I came in to the house with hugs and a big bowl of shrimp. Jim and Millie fell in love with Jade and Jade fell in love with them. I was fortunate to have a long talk with Jim in private and I can tell you he was ok with leaving this earth. All the way till the end he kept everyone else calm. When I was leaving to go home I had started the car and pulled out of the driveway. He motioned me to come back in the driveway, I got out of the car and he said”Rodney, I love you and we hugged for 5 minutes. I kept in touch with him almost everyday since.On fathers day me and daughter sent him fathers days cards. My daughter asked Jim “could you use another granddaughter because I have never had a grandfather before” Jim called her in tears and said yes. Then he would call my house and ask for Jade and bypassing me. I would say,”what about me?” he said after I speak to my granddaughter”.
On Saturday November 14 at 6am Jim Axel died. I was told some of his lasts words “Tell my granddaughter I love her”

Memory Alpha

November 16th, 2009
9:05 am

Some of us recall his good work on WSB/750, prior to his TV career on Ch. 5 RIP

say what?

November 16th, 2009
9:13 am

I grew up watching Mr. Jim Axel on WAGA. He is probably the last true journalist in Atlanta’s TV market. No yellow journalism, no sensationalism, just the facts- and I miss that. I remember his last day at WAGA- black tuxedo and red bow tie. Great man, great journalist.

Chuck Moore

November 16th, 2009
1:02 pm

I arrived in Atlanta to anchor the news at WAGA in the Spring of 1972 with very little money and no place to stay. Jim took pity on me and offered me the spare room in his basement. I lived with him and Millie and the boys as one of the family for 2 and a half months. I will be forever grateful.

russ mayo

November 16th, 2009
6:32 pm

Jim was my neighbor on Ann Ct. in chamblee. Had many get togethers with the family. He will be dearly missed

RIP Jim Axel « Talking with Tim

November 17th, 2009
8:59 am

[...] Axel died on Saturday, after a long battle with cancer. AJC’s Rodney Ho and Doug Richards (former WAGA, currently WXIA). Both articles link to WAGA’s coverage of his [...]


November 17th, 2009
9:16 am

Journalists of Jim Axel’s character are a dying breed. Oh for the days where the facts were presented in a truly unbiased way and the intelligence of we listeners was respected enough for that to be the norm. Today’s “newsreaders” are more concerned with being celebrities than they are with being journalists.

Thank you, Mr. Axel, for respecting us…and the truth.

Linda J. Webster

November 17th, 2009
11:53 am

I’m 63 years old now and I grew up watching Jim Axel his entire career. He was a “Real Journalist” that reported the FACTS. Jim Axel was part of the family you looked forward to seeing him nightly. Journalists’ today should follow in his footsteps. He’s missed by all who knew him.

Mark Engel

November 17th, 2009
1:35 pm

I worked with Jim at WAGA for eight years starting in the mid 1970s. He was big, could be loud and stubborn and surly but it was usually when he was arguing on behalf of solid journalism. He radiated confidence and yeah, he did have an ego (who in TV doesn’t?). I remember him returning one time from an extended vacation wearing a full beard. When he finally shaved it off, he looked years younger. Jim was one of those guys who had a strong influence on my journalism career and I will forever be grateful.


November 17th, 2009
3:23 pm

Hey Engle, If you are a journalism guy, I’m sure you could have written something kinder and more respectful. Why put something so backhanded in the AJC? Save your little paragraph for another more appropriate forum. Congrats though, first time I’ve ever seen your name in the paper.

Tom Conn

November 18th, 2009
8:13 am

Jim was an all-out pro at what he did, he was one of my broadcasting idols, and made me want to get into radio or TV. Not flashy, not bombastic, just gave the news we needed to know. He took his work seriously, although it was fun one day to see the fun side of Jim–one day, some rock radio station had him recite the lyrics to Guns & Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle”! Always wore a red tie, gave us the news straightforward, in good times and bad – Jim will be missed by long-time Atlantans.

Danger Woman

November 21st, 2009
3:28 pm

I remember Jim Axel. He was one of my earliest fans.
During the holiday season back in the 90’s, he told a true story of having Christmas without a father.
When I learned this, I called WAGA and responded with my comments, telling him that he was NOT alone. I told him that I too had many Christmases and Hanukkahs without a Father Figure too.
I even wish him and his family the best for the holiday season.
When he played my comments on the air, there was NOT a dry eye in the whole studio or in my household at the time.
And one month later, he retired and said goodbye to WAGA-5.
When I learned the news that Jim Axel died, I broke down and cried, and remembered that I did break my silence about the holidays without a father. Were it NOT for Jim Axel, I would NEVER had written the very special episode of Feedback: A Hero’s Calling- Feedback Saves Christmas, in which our hero explains to Danger Woman that like her, he also knows how it feels to not have a father at the holidays.
On Behalf of Danger Music, I would like to offer my condolences and Sympathies to the family and friends of Jim Axel. And I will make sure that DannyBoy, My Fabio Swiss Collie and his puppies and kittens wear red ties and ribbons as their final tribute to a great anchorman.
Farewell, Jim Axel. We will meet again in the promised land of justice!

Joanna Massey

February 7th, 2010
6:45 pm

My brother & I attended high school with Jim’s kids. Jim Axel was a man of integrity & a lot of patience. He was always a father figure to my brother John & I’m so grateful for that. He loved his wife, his family & anyone that he came in contact with. I know he is rejoicing with the angels & not suffering anymore. My prayers go out to his family, his friends & coworkers. He will be missed by all.
God Bless!
Joanna Massey