Tillis and Stossel Join Forces to Help Charity

What do country music star Mel Tillis and hard-hitting television journalist John Stossel have in common?

They both stutter.

In addition, both have recently recorded public service announcements for the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation that reached just over 10,000 radio stations across the country this summer.

The public may be surprised that these two well-known Americans are putting a human face on a speech disorder that affects more than 3 million Americans.

Both Mel Tillis and John Stossel have spoken openly of the painful and embarrassing moments in their life caused by stuttering, and now they are working to help others.

Stossel’s childhood and the early part of his career were fraught with the difficulties of stuttering. “I remember terror in the classroom,” Stossel said. “In my early days as a reporter, I did regular live 30-second segments with the anchor of the news program; I woke up every morning in fear of that. The fear stayed with me all day long.”

He considered quitting but, fortunately, sought speech therapy first.  “Once I began to see the results of treatment, I was like a cork out of a bottle,” he said. “I started talking all the time, celebrating and testing my newly found fluency.”

In 1957, Mel Tillis began working as a singer for Minnie Pearl, Nashville’s great country comedienne. Pearl encouraged Tillis to talk on stage, but he refused, afraid that he’d be laughed at. Pearl replied, “Let ‘em laugh. Goodness gracious, laughs are hard to get and I'm sure that they’re laughing with you and not against you, Melvin.”

“Mel Tillis and John Stossel are living proof that people who stutter can be highly successful in their chosen field,” notes the Stuttering Foundation.

-From the Fall 2010 Newsletter