Athens, Ala. – Chief Meteorologist Jason Simpson grew up on a dirt road in Holly Pond in Cullman County. Simpson graduated from Holly Pond High School in 1998 and attended nearby Wallace State Community College for one year on a full ride scholarship before transferring to Mississippi State University to earn his degree in Broadcast Meteorology. While a student at MSU, Jason began his first weather job two weeks after he turned 19 years old, working for ABC affiliate WTOK in Meridian, Mississippi, on the weekends. At that time, Simpson was only earning $35 per show. With a laugh, Simpson said, “It was enough money to buy McDonald’s and gas to get down from Meridian and back to Starkville.” After graduating from MSU at the top of his class, Simpson moved to Columbia, Missouri, and joined KMIZ-TV where he anchored the morning weather. After a year at KMIZ-TV, he went back to WTOK in Meridian and worked the morning show for a little while before being promoted to chief meteorologist. Simpson’s next move was to Birmingham where he was hired to do the morning show on ABC 33/40, the television home of Chief Meteorologist James Spann. Simpson worked with ABC 33/40 for seven years before he received the call to come to Huntsville’s WHNT 19 to take over as their chief meteorologist. Simpson says of that experience that it was a “God-thing”, adding that he didn’t call them, but they called him and he was happy to get the job. Simpson says that it has been a long road to get to where he is. He said, “You grow up in the country and you have a little different mindset than folks in the city do. You have to learn some things. There is a learning curve when you come from dirt road to downtown.” Simpson doesn’t expect to go anywhere. Being raised in Holly Pond, in between Huntsville and Birmingham, Simpson said that he always said that he would be happy if he could work in either market. While most in the news business don’t get to call their own shots when it comes to where they are located, he says, “I got the opportunity to work with James Spann and 33/40 and then, got the call to be the chief meteorologist at WHNT, which was a station I had watched since I was a kid. It was a big blessing to be able to do that.”
While Simpson’s career was growing, so was his family. In 2011, they had their first son, Walt, and in 2013, they had a baby girl they named Shelby. After having two healthy children previously, the Simpson’s were not expecting any complications with their third child, Brody. Although, Brody, was due in late May, on May 7, 2015, their new little one decided that he was going to arrive early. Simpson says that he arrived home from WHNT around 11 p.m. after the 10 p.m. news ready to kick back and get a snack when all of the sudden his wife said that it was time to go to the hospital. Simpson said that at that moment, his response was “How? Why? What’s going on?”, because the other two were delivered by C-section and all of the sudden, Brody was trying to come naturally. Simpson adds that Brody coming early was a “God-thing”, because had he not come early, he wouldn’t have made it due to the fact that Brody’s heart was not developing correctly and no one knew it until he was delivered. Brody Simpson was born on the morning of May 8th 2015, at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. At that point, Simpson said that they could see signs of outward trouble, like the fact that he was not colored correctly and some other physical issues that made it obvious that something wrong was happening on the inside of their newborn’s body. Simpson and his wife, Lacey, stayed in the NICU in Huntsville for two days after they diagnosed Brody with Shone’s Complex which is a heart disease where there are four malformations of the heart. The most serious condition at that time was Brody’s aorta. Simpson described the aorta as a “kinked water hose.” That condition prevented blood from being pumped through Brody’s body. Simpson said, “It was scary, scary stuff.” To receive more specialize treatment, Brody was flown to Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham. Simpson says that over two years and eight surgeries later, Brody is a pretty healthy little guy. Simpson adds, that Brody is “now running around, fighting with his brother and sister.” Simpson joked, “You should have seen him trying to carry his trick or treat bag across the yard this Halloween. He had probably two pounds of candy in the bag and people would give him more because he was working so hard. Every house we went to, it was more of a struggle for him to carry that little bag.” Simpson says that Brody is still a little bit weak and small for his size, but that’s to be expected from a heart baby.
Having the situation with Brody led the family to connect with three other families who had gone through Children’s of Alabama. Two years ago, they came together and decided to begin an annual fishing tournament to raise money for Children’s of Alabama. Simpson says that although he’s not a fisherman, he did catch a bass once and he can catch a catfish on a hotdog, but that’s about it. Simpson went on to say that there are actually some talented people who do know how to bass fish and they have some really good equipment to be able to do that. Over the two years that the tournament has existed, over 800 people (400 each year) have participated in the Castin’ n Catchin’ fundraising event for congenital heart disease. Simpson says that the effort benefits Children’s of Alabama 100%. He adds that no one outside of the hospital gets a single dollar. It’s a volunteer effort by all those involved and the checks are written directly to the Children’s of Alabama Foundation and those funds are then sent to help the heart unit. So far, Simpson says that they have been able to raise about $215,000 in two years to try to help babies who wouldn’t have a future otherwise. Simpson states that it’s pretty amazing that we have such an amazing resource as Children’s of Alabama right here in our state. He says that the influence of UAB and Children’s of Alabama radiates across all 67 counties in our state and it takes support from our communities and in churches where individuals decide to send contributions to help. Simpson said that he was speaking at Union Grove Baptist Church and members collected $1200 to help the effort. At that moment, Simpson said that he was “amazed and floored and humbled” that anyone would do that for their family. Simpson says that every little bit helps. He added that it takes about two million dollars a day to run the facility and they are serving anywhere from 200 to 250 kids at a time. Simpson added, “Some of those children have terminal cancer, some have heart disease, some are in the burn center, some have developmental issues that they are trying to work through and we have one of the finest facilities in the entire world in the state of Alabama to deal with children’s health problems.” Talking about our area, Simpson said that Limestone County has been impacted big time when it comes to children’s heart defects. He said that he personally knows two families who lost children as Children’s because of the situation. He went on to say that as good as the medical care is, sadly, all children cannot be saved. He says that this is another great reason to support the work at Children’s of Alabama, so that the problems can be fixed through research. Being able to learn new state-of-the-art ways to do treat patients can save lives. Simpson adds that every little bit helps to make sure that our children are taken care of in the best way possible.
If you would like to help this local effort to support Children’s of Alabama, Simpson suggests that you first look into the Castin’ n Catchin’ bass tournament coming up on April 14, 2018, at Goose Pond Colony in Scottsboro which supports the heart unit at Children’s of Alabama. You can find out more information about this tournament and/or sponsorship opportunities and volunteer opportunities at Castinncatchin.org. Simpson adds that if you are not interested in bass fishing there are many other ways to support Children’s of Alabama. One good way he suggests is to go to ChildrensAl.org and you can support them right there on their website. Simpson says that when you see the Children’s Miracle Network buckets at businesses like Walmart or Costco or wherever they may be, drop a dollar in or drop your spare change in. When Publix has their coupons that they sell for CMN where you get $20 for $10, buy them. He says that any money that you spend through CMN stays right here in Alabama. Look for the red Children’s logo or the CMN balloon logo.
Simpson says that he appreciates the support over the years, not just from the Children’s of Alabama aspect, but for his family over the years from people in the Tennessee Valley. He says that it was such an easy transition from Birmingham to Huntsville because the people are so nice. He appreciates people who say hello to him when they see him out. If you see him out somewhere, Simpson says, “Just say, Hi.”