Former WLOS reporter Merritt Youngdeer has died, according to an obituary published in North Carolina. Youngdeer was 48, and died the day before his 49th birthday. Some friends learned of his death when they went to Youngdeer’s Facebook page to wish him a happy birthday. Others expressed their shock at his passing: “Today has been a very difficult and shocking day for many of us in the radio, TV and print community across WNC. We have lost one of our own, and far too early,” posted Matt Mittan.
According to a story on Ashvegas.com, “Youngdeer was a well known former radio and television reporter in Western North Carolina, having worked for WWNC and WLOS. He was the son of a former principal chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, Merritt Youngdeer Sr.”
Last month, Youngdeer shared a story on Facebook of his early career, and how he was urged not to use his given name on television:
I was telling a friend just a few hours ago about how I was ASSIGNED an ON AIR NAME to work in broadcasting way back in 1984. Since I was reluctant to choose a FAKE NAME, instead of using my given name MERRITT YOUNGDEER, my boss picked the name for me and I hated it. My ON AIR NAME at that station was “Dave Ross.” EESH! It wasn’t until 1997 when I began working for KKOB in Albuquerque, as a news anchor/reporter that t I was finally allowed to use MY REAL NAME over the airwaves.
The cause of death has not been released.