(Sept. 24, 1947 – Nov. 9, 2012). Born in San Antonio, Texas, Gillis moved to the border town of Howe, Indiana, with his family after his father’s retirement from the Air Force. He was the editor of his LaGrange, Indiana, high school paper and got his first job at WSTR-AM in nearby Sturgis, Michigan, at age 16, where he swept floors and later reported news about his high school.

From 1965 to 1968, Gillis attended Indiana University, where he spent much of his time working at the campus’ student radio station. In 1968, at age 20, he left Bloomington to accept a job at WNAP-FM, the sister station to Wibc-Am radio station in Indianapolis. 

At WNAP-FM, Gillis made radio history by changing the nature of FM radio in Indianapolis as part of the first team of DJs. Fairbanks Communications debuted the counterculture radio station on July 22, 1968, as an alternative to rival station Wife, a Top-40 themed station. Famously, WIFE boycotted the Doors’ music in response to Jim Morrison’s lewd onstage antics, but WNAP gave the Doors’ music hourly rotation. Gillis handled the 6 AM to 10 AM shift at WNAP where he earned the nickname “Wild One” for his on-air high-jinx.

Gillis left Indianapolis to work at stations in Boston and Philadelphia. He returned to Indianapolis in 1980, joining WIBC-AM as a traffic reporter. He remained at the station for the next 27 years, famously guiding Hoosiers to work with his 4 a.m. to noon traffic reports.

Known for delivering his reports in a helicopter, he referred to as a “whirlybird,” then in an airplane and the occasional blimp or hot-air balloon, Gillis logged an estimated 20,000 hours in the air by the time of his retirement in 2007.

Gillis’ legacy of almost 40 years on the Indianapolis airwaves earned him a reputation that spanned multiple generations of listeners. At WNAP and later WIBC he served as a reliable reporter of Naptown traffic.

In 2012, Gillis had been suffering from respiratory problems for a few weeks, which led to his death.

Revised March 2021

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