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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Tribute To John Hambrick (1940-2013), Miami Broadcasting Legend

From Texas, to Cincinnati, to Cleveland, to Los Angeles, to San Francisco, to New York, to Miami.

Only one man can claim to have served as an anchorman in all of those places:  a man who ended his anchoring career right here in South Florida.

It's two decades since John Hambrick has been seen or heard on South Florida's news broadcasts, but few anchors ever made more of an impression.    Hambrick was hired by WTVJ in 1985 to replace another legend, Ralph Renick.   It was clear from the start Hambrick was more than just an anchor:  he also was an actor, not just reading the news, but delivering it as only a thespian could.    

Hambrick loved to talk about his days as an actor.   The native Texan was influenced by Western stars such as Rory Calhoun and Audie Murphy, and appeared on the TV program "Playhouse 90" alongside actor Richard Boone.   This was a real source of pride for Hambrick, who could (and would) tell story after story about his acting career... as well as the record album that he cut in 1972 alongside some of the best musicians in Nashville.   It was not unusual for Hambrick to break out into song, any place at any time.   After all, you cannot spell Hambrick without Ham!

(John Hambrick's 1972 album on Terry Knight's Brown Bag label.   Terry Knight is best-remembered as the long-time manager of Grand Funk Railroad.)

After making a name for himself at WTVJ alongside co-anchor Susan Lichtman, Hambrick moved over to WCIX Channel 6, which was looking to boost its profile in the community after being acquired by CBS a year earlier.   John was paired with anchors Barbara Sloan and Giselle Fernandez, and without a doubt did much to boost the station's visibility throughout South Florida.  He was tested, as were we all, when Hurricane Andrew devastated parts of South Florida.   One night John was out in the field, when he confronted a looter who was taking advantage of the chaos that followed Andrew.   John put the guy in his place, a memorable moment that showed a side of John that many in the public had not seen before.

While at Channel 6, John was honored with an Emmy award for his work on a special titled "Florida's Obscenity Showdown".   He was also honored with a Silver Circle Award for his many years of broadcasting, in South Florida and in some of the largest markets in the nation.

John's time on the South Florida airwaves ended in 1993.   He returned to his ranch in Texas, which he called "The Little House".   (He talked about it so much, we all felt we knew every square inch of the place.)   John and his son Jack would go on to co-produce a documentary for PBS in 2002.   In recent years, he'd returned to acting, and could be heard doing commercial voice-overs up until his recent bout with cancer.

On John's final night at WCIX, we producers pooled our video and helped Barbara Sloan and Ralph Murciano come up with a farewell to a man that played such a big role in giving our station a personality boost.  Barbara's words, and the images we came up with, paint a picture of a man who was a true original.   I was proud that several of the pieces I produced -- from our series "When The Doo Wop Stops", to the riding-off-into-the-sunset ambience of "Myths and Mavericks"-- played so prominently into the tribute, and to John's body of work that we'd come to respect.   John, though, takes most of the credit.   He could get away with things that other reporters could not, so when we pushed the envelope, so to speak, it was John's character and charisma that made it such compelling TV.   

                                 (Click on the arrow to view the 1993 farewell to John Hambrick) 

John Hambrick had a long and distinguished career in broadcast journalism, with eight of those years spent in South Florida.   No one who worked with him could ever forget him, and the same could be said about his many viewers.   Many things come and go in South Florida, with most making little impression, but that could never be said about John Hambrick.   He's a man who always did things his way, be it acting, singing, or performing in front of TV cameras.   As John liked to say, "Thank you for having us in for news".   We will miss you, John.

Here's John Hambrick, "earning his reputation one story at a time." 

Now that you're here, check out the other posts in the SAY SIX! blog.


Anonymous said...

Met John Hambrick in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew when he was doing an on site broadcast in our neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I remember helping John paint his house in Piedmont when he was the new anchor at Channel 4 in San Francisco. A bunch of us had paint brushes and some sorts of libations and were accompanied by a variety of songs by Crystal Gale, Emmy Lou Harris, Willie Nelson and friends.
John was a gentleman and he cared about people, he paid attention to them when they spoke and, yes, he did love to add a dramatic flair to his presentation.
A good man.