John Cameron Swayze

Author: 
John Cameron Swayze
John Cameron Swayze. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

John Cameron Swayze, the first anchorman on network news, got his big break in Kansas City. He had a distinctive voice and won oratorical contests in his Atchison, Kansas, high school. Swayze left the University of Kansas in 1929 to try his luck as an actor on Broadway. The impact of the stock market crash in October 1929 closed many theaters; Swayze decided to move to Kansas City.

In 1930 he joined The Kansas City Journal-Post as the City Hall reporter. KMBC radio had a microphone in the newspaper’s newsroom to put news bulletins on the air quickly. Swayze’s start in broadcasting was the job of announcing the bulletins. In 1933 he appeared on early experimental television from the 29th floor of the Kansas City Power and Light building.

Swayze left the Journal-Post in 1940 when he was offered a full time newscaster job at KMBC at a weekly salary of $30. After four years he decided to leave Kansas City for Hollywood to get into network radio. He was hired for a desk job by NBC’s western news division, and in 1947 the network moved him to New York. Wanting to get back on the air, Swayze proposed a radio quiz program "Who Said That?" He was a member of a panel who tried to identify people behind a famous quote. NBC liked the idea and so did the listeners.

NBC appointed him to moderate their televised coverage of the 1948 Republican and Democratic national conventions. The next year they put him on TV as the anchorman for their "Camel News Caravan," televised every weekday evening for 15 minutes. His closing line, "Glad we could get together," caught on. He stepped down in 1956 and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley took over.

For over 20 years Swayze did the Timex watch commercials and became one of the most recognized personalities on television. Swayze’s line at the end of each commercial, "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking," became part of America’s pop culture.

Acknowledgement: 

A previous version of this article is published on kchistory.org: http://kchistory.org/content/biography-john-cameron-swayze-1905-1995-tel...

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