Not Your Average Joe: Mr. Knozit and the Peabody Award

McKissick Museum’s Not Your Average Joe: Mr. Knozit and the Peabody Award” exhibition has been on display at the Museum since January, 2020. Our building closures, due to COVID-19, have given us the opportunity to explore news ways of presenting our exhibits. This exhibit, curated by Graduate Assistant Hannah Patton, is one of our first attempts at making our exhibits accessible online. We’d love to know what you think in the comments below! We hope you enjoy the blog post and text panels by Hannah below.

The inspiration for the “Not Your Average Joe: Mr. Knozit and the Peabody Award” exhibit began well before there was even the possibility of a physical exhibit. During my first semester as a graduate assistant at the McKissick Museum, my position was funded by the South Carolina Broadcast Association (SCBA), and I began work in the Museum’s SCBA Archive. A substantial part of this work involved processing objects related to Joe Pinner, a South Carolina Broadcasting Legend and host of the Mr. Knozit Show for 37 years. As the semester progressed, I learned more and more about the Mr. Knozit Show and Joe Pinner, the person. 

When the idea of an exhibit about Joe Pinner was presented to me, I was thrilled and thought it would be easy given the sheer amount of pictures, documents, and objects we have. Since this was my first time curating an exhibit, I learned the important lesson that more content did not necessarily make it easier to create an exhibit. In fact, it was challenging to craft a meaningful narrative about a man who has, and continues to live, such a full life. Ultimately, I focused on elements of his life, such as the Peabody Award, because it is those distinctions that make Joe Pinner undeniably “Not Your Average Joe.” I’m proud of the text panels that you’ll find below and I hope that you’ll enjoy them as we all stay home during this challenging time.

Panel Text: 

Joe Who?

Radio and television personality Joe Pinner was born in Morehead City, North Carolina in 1935. Pinner’s career in broadcasting began at a radio station in New Bern, North Carolina at the age of 15. While a student at UNC Chapel Hill, Pinner worked for the University radio station, WCHL. He then worked at WMBR radio in Jacksonville, Florida, before joining the U.S. Army in 1958. During his time with the Army, Pinner worked at Armed Forces Radio WFJX at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC.

In May 1963, Pinner joined Columbia’s own WIS-TV. Only this time he would be hosting his first television show; the much-beloved local children’s program, the Mr. Knozit Show. Pinner was a part of the WIS family for 55 years and was involved a variety of roles beyond the Mr. Knozit Show. Pinner served as a weatherman, news anchor, and co-host for WIS News Midday and Today in Carolina.
Panel Text: 
The Mr. Knozit Show

The Mr. Knozit Show aired from 1963 until 2000. The show was unique for its inclusion of a live audience made up primarily of children. As Mr. Knozit, Pinner engaged the children by interviewing them, asking them their name, age, and what they hoped to be when they grew up. Over the years, the Mr. Knozit Show hosted guests such as William Shatner and other notable television personalities.

The arts, education, and safety were also important elements of the show. Mr. Knozit taught children about science, they learned about plants by studying the growth of a seed, and even explored how various types of electricity are produced. Mr. Knozit also emphasized the importance of safety and health. Children were invited to become members of his “Seatbelt Safety Club” or participate in an anti-drug poster competition. Mr. Knozit often hosted guests from the medical field to teach children about the importance of healthy practices.

Did you watch the Mr. Knozit Show as a kid or participate in the show?

Share a memory with us below!
Panel Text: 
The Peabody Award

The George Foster Peabody Award recognizes excellence in broadcasting. In 1967, WIS and the Mr. Knozit Show were awarded the prestigious Peabody Award for “distinguished achievement and meritorious public service in the category of Children’s Programs.” The Peabody Advisory Board stated that “Mr. Knozit is something more than an electronic baby-sitter.”

Recognition of the success and positive impact of the Mr. Knozit Show was not limited to the Peabody Award. Throughout his career, Pinner and the Mr. Knozit Show received countless amounts of fan mail. Both children and parents took the time to send letters of love and appreciation for the show. In 1968, one mother wrote:

Dear Mr. Penner[sic],

My Son & I watch your show Mr. Knozit almost every day and a few things which you have done lately, prompted me to write this note, namely:

1. your use of integrated groups of children on your show

2. your recent reference to the Jewish holiday – Hanukkah

3. your discouragement in the use of fireworks by young children

CONGRATULATIONS! It is good to see this in Columbia.
Panel Text: 

Joe Out on the Town

Joe Pinner’s positive impact goes well beyond the television screen or radio waves. He has participated in numerous philanthropic events, including programs with Fort Jackson, the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, the University of South Carolina, and the United Way. He also served as the Master of Ceremonies for countless town and city parades.

In recognition of his contributions, Pinner received numerous awards from cities throughout the state and the South Carolina General Assembly. The cities of Columbia, Florence, and Sumter have presented him with symbolic keys to the cities. Pinner was awarded the state’s highest honor, the Order of the Palmetto, three times (1982, 1993, and 2001) for volunteerism and contributions to society as Mr. Knozit. In 1989, Pinner was awarded the honorary rank of Command Sergeant Major, by the U.S. Army at Fort Jackson, as he “has always answered the call to duty, whether it be the Fort Jackson Christmas Concert, or the Special Olympics.”

McKissick Museum is dedicated to telling the story of Southern Life, even while closed. Did you enjoy these text panels? If so, let us know in the comments. Your input will help us determine our next steps for bringing our exhibition content online.

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About McKissick Museum

Established in 1976, we're located at the heart of the historic Horseshoe on the University of South Carolina's campus. Our collections date back to 1801 and provide insight into the history of the university and the community, culture, and environment of the American South. free and Open to the public Monday - Friday, 8:30am to 5pm, and Saturdays, 11am to 3pm, McKissick has a diverse schedule of exhibitions and programs. McKissick Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums, operating within their guidelines for the proper care and safekeeping of these historical artifacts.

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