Black History Month: Featuring one of WITN’s first Black meteorologists

WITN's first Black meteorologist, Russell James
WITN's first Black meteorologist, Russell James(WITN)
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 7:03 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2023 at 4:48 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - For this last day of Black History Month, we want to feature someone on the WITN team. Meteorologist Russell James is one of WITN’s first Black meteorologists. He is an ECU graduate and a North Carolinian through and through.

WITN’s Courtney Bunting sat down with him to learn more about what brought him here.

Whether you recognize him for his unique suits or his gentle nature, eastern Carolina has been inviting meteorologist Russell James into their homes every evening since August 2022.

A Wilmington native and ECU graduate - it just makes sense for him to be here.

“Russell is just so intelligent when it comes to weather,” said WITN News Director Clayton Bauman. “That’s really what sold him to me in the first place is that he has just a passion for what he does with weather.”

Bauman hiring Russell was a benchmark for WITN - making him one of the station’s first Black meteorologists. That representation is important.

Russell said, “I remember one time I was looking at the camera and I saw Al Roker for the first time, and I was really excited. I remember telling my mom, oh my God that guy looks just like me.”

Russell is a welcome addition to WITN’s First Alert Weather Team.

“He can pull out any bit of information about any tropical system, the super storm in 93,” WITN Meteorologist Jim Howard said. “He can tell you every single bit of data about that storm. And when you’re around a meteorologist like that, it’s fun.”

It’s not just his fascination with weather that led him on this path. It started with a desire to help - when a storm hit North Illinois while he was there on spring break as an 8-year-old.

“It was after the tornado that made me want to become a meteorologist. Going outside and making sure, helping residents, and rescuing people,” Russell said. “I was like, this is what I want to do.”

The rest became history. While he loves to come to work to study the weather, Russell says he also enjoys showing others that your dreams are achievable, even with challenges in the way. Russell has autism spectrum disorder, but says he views it positively.

“I don’t see it as a limitation, more so as an opportunity,” he explained. He hopes his ability to work hard and persevere can also inspire.

“If you have a dream of being something whether it’s a meteorologist or an astronaut or a firefighter or police officer or anything, keep focusing on that dream, work hard and never give up,” said Russell.

Roker was the first Black weathercaster in each of the cities where he worked until he moved to New York City in 1983.

correction: WITN stated that Russell was its first Black meteorologist. Mike Woods was a Black meteorologist with WITN from 1993-1996.