Joe Birch anchors WMC Action News 5 at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Joe marked his 40th year of service to WMC Action News 5 and its viewers in 2018. He accepted an offer to work at Tennessee’s first television station May 20, 1978, the day he graduated from Christian Brothers University. Joe has served WMC viewers his entire career.
In 2014, Joe was inducted into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. The Emmy Award-winning news anchor was invited to join the Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Mid-South Chapter, in 2009.
Joe has traveled across America and around the world for WMC. He visited the People’s Republic of China for three weeks in 1986 to cover a visit by representatives of Memphis In May International Festival, which honored China in 1987. The newsman went on assignment to Italy in 1992 to prepare a documentary on the Memphis-bound Wonders cultural series exhibition from the Vatican Museums. During that assignment, he met Pope John Paul II and recorded the exchange for broadcast on WMC Action News 5. Joe told the Holy Father, “The people of Memphis send you their warmest greetings.” The Pontiff responded in his Polish accent, “God-a-bless-Tennessee.” Joe later spent 25 days in Atlanta, covering Memphians and Mid-Southerners attending the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.
Closer to home, Joe has won honors from the National Council on Problem Gambling for his reports on the positive economic and damaging social implications of casinos in the Mid-South.
Birch has won numerous awards for his charitable and civic endeavors. In December 2016, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital honored Joe for 15 consecutive years of participation in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend since the inaugural event in 2002. He has raised in excess of $100,000 during the St. Jude Marathons and Half Marathons.
In 2009, Joe was named “Newsmaker of the Year” by the Memphis Gridiron Show, Inc., an award he cherishes because it was once bestowed on Joe’s hero, the late entertainer Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Joe’s other 2009 honors include Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year from the Association of Fund Raising Professionals (AFP/Memphis Chapter) as well as the Ave Maria Award for years of service to the Ave Maria Nursing Home in Bartlett, Tennessee. In 2008, Christian Brothers University made Joe the 14th recipient of the Maurelian Medal, CBU’s highest award for service to the university or community.
Diversity Memphis (formerly the National Council of Christians and Jews) named Joe 2008 Humanitarian of the Year along with four other Memphians noted for community service. Birch received the 2008 St. Peter the Rock Award for his service to St. Peter Villa, the nursing home and rehabilitation center where Joe’s beloved father spent the last year and a half of his life. In 2007, the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association introduced the Joe Birch Media Award, presented to those who use the tools of communications to enlighten the community about MIFA’s myriad of services. Joe was the first winner of the award.
Joe has delivered MIFA Meals on Wheels (Route #12) once a week for nearly 20 years. In this time, Joe has been blessed with countless friendships with MIFA clients. One client, Ms. Rosa Wright of 597 Mississippi Blvd., was 105 years of age when she asked Joe and others to repair her dilapidated home. He prepared a news report about the “Matriarch of Mississippi Boulevard” who was radically independent and refused to move even in the face of drug dealers who pedaled illegal substances just a few feet from Ms. Wright’s front door. The 2004 news report prompted responses from many kind souls and led to the complete renovation of Ms. Wright’s residence by the good people of Le Moyne Owen College Community Development Corporation, Home Depot and many others. At no cost to her, Ms. Wright enjoyed her refurbished home until the summer of 2007. She died December 7, 2007 at the age of 109.
The Memphis and Shelby County Optimist Respect for Law Committee named Joe “Citizen of the Year” in 2007 for his Taking Back Our Neighborhoods reports and other community building efforts.
Joe is the co-founder and longtime race director of what’s now the Orion 5K Run-Walk for St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency that serves children and families in 38126, the city’s most impoverished zip code. A crowd of 1,708 runners plus their families and enjoyed the 2018 Orion 5K, which ends with a magnificent party on the east side of FedEx Forum.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, Joe visited New York City to deliver the $527,000 WMC collected to help the United Way of New York City and the agencies and people they serve.
The Memphis Chapter of UNICO, the Italian-American service organization, bestowed their community service award on Joe in 2004. Associated Catholic Charities honored Joe in 2002 with the Bishop Carroll T. Dozier Service Award, the agency's highest honor for community service.
Joe is deeply involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. His beloved father suffered from Alzheimer’s for 14 years until his death in 2002. Joe regularly serves as emcee of Alzheimer’s Association events, including the annual Memory Walk. Joe was the honoree at the 2008 Alzheimer’s Association of the Mid-South Gala.
Christian Brothers University named Joe “Trustee Emeritus” after serving 12 years on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater.
Joe and native Memphian Robyn Davis Birch (CBU 1977) were married in June 1983. They have been blessed with two sons, Joseph III and Matthew.
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The people of Memphis and the Mid-South have the rare opportunity to encounter a person who embodies a living history of World War II, the Holocaust and its aftermath next week at the University of Memphis.