Monday, August 23, 2010

Anchorman Dave "Mac" McElhatton dead at 81

Dave "Mac" McElhatton, a long time anchor at KCBS Radio and KPIX Channel 5, died this morning from a stroke related illness at his home in Rancho Mirage, surrounded by loved ones. He was 81.

McElhatton, an Oakland native, retired from the CBS5 KPIX anchor desk on Nov. 30, 2000 after nearly 50 years on the air in the Bay Area.

Among the major stories McElhatton covered were the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the 1989 earthquake and the 1993 murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas.

The following is from the obituary CBS5 posted on its website:
    Mac was an Oakland native who was in one of the first classes from then San Francisco State College and now San Francisco State University. He used his G.I. Bill money to finance his education. He graduated in 1951 with a B.A. in liberal arts. 
McElhatton and Kate Kelly in 2000.
    Just two weeks after earning degree, he landed his first job at KCBS Radio. It wasn't long before McElhatton shot to stardom. 
    Newsman Al Hart, another legendary KCBS anchor, was McElhatton's producer. "He was so funny," Hart once recalled. "So quick-witted, Dave could do so many things and that's why that period of radio back there in the '50s and '60s was so much fun, because we could do whatever we wanted to do." 
    He worked for KCBS radio for 25 years in a variety of capacities including the Bay Area's first telephone talks show, "Viewpoint" and eventually news director and moved the station to its current all news format. He then made the shift to television. 
    A critic at the time questioned McElhatton's move to television, calling it "either a flash of genius or an incredible blunder." 
Wendy Tokuda and McElhatton in 1986.
    Some of the new technology did prove challenging for McElhatton, but he met it with a smile every time. 
    "Mac was very good humored about it, he knew he looked funny compared to the typical anchor man. He wasn't a young guy, he wasn't handsome, he wasn't perky and energetic, he was McElhatton," recalled Harry Fuller, who produced McElhatton's first television newscast. Fuller, later as news director and general manager, was there for some of the biggest moments of McElhatton's career. 
    "McElhatton was unflappable. I watched him work through the '89 earthquake, I watched him through period after period of election coverage when we'd go on and on for hours and hours without a script," said Fuller. 
    He co-anchored for 10 years with Wendy Tokuda and also with Kate Kelly, both of whom are still at the station. 
    "He was just rock-steady and I was nervous and green and insecure and he was so generous," added Wendy Tokuda, who shared anchor duties with McElhatton for more than a decade.
    "What you saw really was him, he really was that nice. In fact, he was nicer. And he really was warm, and he really was that genuine, honest person that you saw."
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to:

The Dave McElhatton Scholarship in Broadcast Journalism
Check Payable to: San Francisco State University Corporation
Attention: Carma Zisman
University Development
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132

The CBS5 obit has a secure link to donate funds.

(Photo credits: Top photo by Ray Chavez, Oakland Tribune. Bottom by Roger Ressmeyer, Corbis)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

How PATHETIC of the Chronicle to lean on AP for the obit piece on SFGate. Just shameful.

Anonymous said...

To be fair from my earlier post, the Chron has now posted an obit by Peter Hartlaub. Still troubling that it took so long for the Chron's version to get online.

Rich Lieberman said...

In a word: "professional."

Respected, well-liked, a great personality and one helluva journalist.

Too bad there's few "Macs" in the business anymore.

RIP, Dave.

Anonymous said...

A class act. I only worked with him for about six months, toward the end of his years at KPIX. He was gracious and funny. Made everyone around him feel comfortable.

TK said...

Dave was to the Bay Area what Walter Cronkite was to America. Nuff said.

Pete U. said...

Mac was the voice, and the man who you could tell was always there to report honestly, with litte drama and all the facts. I've missed him in the years since he left the air. Won't be another like him.

Luda said...

A memorial website was created for Dave McElhatton! Honor his memory by contributing to his memorial site http://davemcelhatton.people2remember.com/