If you’re a Louisvillian with deep roots and good ears, you probably recognize the man who tells you how to use the moving walkway at the airport. His name’s Jack Fox. He was a DJ on WHAS for years.
And if you pay attention while traveling, you’ll hear Fox and the airport’s female voice, Carolyn Hopkins, in other airports. In 109 other airports, specifically. Also in the New York subway, the Mayo Clinic, various Capitol buildings and the Kennedy Space Center.
The Verge has just published a profile of Hopkins and Fox and the company they work for, Innovative Electronic Designs, which is based in Louisville.
The Verge describes the 100-employee company as “the preeminent supplier of what’s known as an automated paging system: networked, computer-controlled equipment that controls audio notifications for big complexes.”
The company rose out of Louisville’s early rock n’ roll scene and was the project of musician and agent Hardy Martin. Martin knew Hopkins from his talent agency days. She had been a singer. Martin hired her to record automated messages for a Disney World attraction in 1989.
Hopkins’ voice isn’t what you’d expect from a paging system. It’s neither robotic, nor elegant and actressy, but rather, mirthful and folksy.
“They said, ‘Can you do a certain voice?’” Hopkins, now 64, remembers. “They wanted a very happy smiling voice! And I tried it.” The gig continued, and Hopkins was called back every time they created a new system.
Fox came in a few years later.
In 1991, after the Gulf War broke out, he was tapped by IED. It was the beginning of tighter airport security, and Fox sounded strong.
“They needed a male voice that was friendly yet authoritative,” says Fox.
And from there, the voices spread, giving Fox and Hopkins a kind of celebrity for sharp listeners.
If they get recognized, it usually only happens while they are at the airport themselves. Fox says he was renting a car at the terminal once, and the agent said, “You sound like that guy!” Then there was the time he was traveling with his granddaughter: “She got this puzzled look on her face and said: ‘Why is grandpa talking so much?’”
This is a family trade for Fox, too. His daughter, Jill Fox, is WFPL’s weekend host. She also records the underwriting messages (“Support for WFPL comes from…”) you hear every 20 minutes or so on air.