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RIP Walter Evans: vintage TV newsman had a 30-year career with Channel 4 (updated)

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Walter Evans, who spent three decades anchoring and reporting for D-FW’s KRLD/KDFW-TV (now branded as Fox4), died Tuesday at age 86 after a lengthy bout with congestive heart failure.

He left the station at the end of 1993 after spending the last 14 years of his television news career co-anchoring the 6 a.m. and noon newscasts.

Veteran Fox4 anchor/reporter Richard Ray said he talked with Evans by phone about three weeks ago.

“He was failing but still had that great baritone voice . . . We both felt he retired too soon, that he was so loved and trusted that he could have stayed for years.” Ray said late Tuesday night via a direct message on Twitter.

Anchor Clarice Tinsley, in her 40th year at Fox4, remembers Evans as a “steady and serious” journalist who “had a quiet, yet powerful presence in our newsroom and was a wonderful leader. He also had a great sense of humor. I have great memories of a wonderful colleague.”

Former WFAA-TV anchor Gloria Campos, who retired in 2014, said Evans was “one of my favorites. I always thought he had (Walter) Cronkite quality. I trusted Walter, as I’m sure many fellow North Texans did as well.”

CBS11 sports anchor Bill Jones tweeted that he had never met Evans, but “grew up watching him. He always seemed like the consummate pro with a very likable personality, great voice and on-air presence.”

Also reacting on Twitter to Evans’ death, writer/photographer Mike McGee said he was two or three years old when he first started watching Evans on Channel 4. “I literally grew up with him. No joke. I was fascinated that a bald man was doing the news. He was ‘the best’ for just about all the decades I’ve been alive.”

A graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School, Evans grew up in Dallas as an only child. His father was a deputy chief with the Dallas Police Department.

“My mother (the late Grace Evans) used to worry about me listening to the radio too much,” Evans recalled in a 1991 interview with your friendly content provider. “Just as today’s parents worry about their kids watching too much television.”

Evans’ first love was flying, though. And he yearned to be a civilian airline pilot after flying combat missions during the Korean War. But when he failed a Naval aviation cadet program physical, Evans enrolled at the University of Texas after first working two years with a railroad company. He majored in broadcast journalism and his first job in the profession was news director for a Tyler radio station.

Then Dan Rather called in 1958 and offered Evans a job at Houston’s KTRH radio, where he ran the news operation.

“My wife and I decided we didn’t want to live in Houston, so I turned the job down,” Evans recalled. He billed KTRH $25 for travel and meal expenses, but “I never got the money back,” Evans said. “So I like to say that Dan Rather still owes me $25. Actually, it’s not Dan. It’s the station. But it’s a much better story to say it’s Dan.”

Evans returned to Dallas in 1959, and rose to news director of WFAA-AM radio. He held that position on the day of President Kennedy’s assassination.

“And then I got sort of shuffled aside,” he said. “Not shuffled out. Just shuffled aside.”

He soon moved down the street, joining KRLD-TV/radio in 1964. Evans initially worked mostly for the radio station, hosting call-in shows with former Dallas mayor Wes Wise, the late sportscaster Frank Glieber and others. In Evans’ view, “they were the three most enjoyable years I’ve spent in broadcasting.”

Evans’ career at Channel 4 included on-site coverage of the 1976 Democratic and Republican national conventions. In 1979, he became the principal anchor of Channel 4’s early morning and noon newscasts. And he professed to be happier in those domains.

“I never really aspired to be an anchor. It just worked out that way,” Evans said. “People always sympathize with me for having to get up so early. But I always tell them, ‘Save your sympathy for somebody who needs it.’ I don’t really care for working at night. I perform better in the morning. I work better, think better . . . We’re not the focus of as much attention at the station, and I realize that. And it’s fine with me. There’s plenty of pressure in the morning, but a lot less than on the evening newscasts. That’s another reason why I enjoy it.”

Evans used to begin his days with a 3:30 a.m. wakeup call. That wouldn’t cut it these days. Fox4 now fires up its early morning newscasts at 4 a.m. (still earlier than any other station) and this fall will stretch the back end to 10 a.m. Morning newscasts now are the station’s biggest moneymaker, and Fox4 continues to dominate the ratings, particularly from 6 to 9 a.m.

Shortly after Evans left the early morning shift, Tim Ryan commandeered it and has been in place as the mainstay anchor since 1995.

Evans had planned to retire from Channel 4 at age 65, but instead opted for an early retirement package and left the station as a 61-year-old who finally had both the time and the money to travel extensively with his second wife, Marilyn.

“I don’t remember him ever having a cross word for anyone. I don’t ever remember him in conflict with anyone,” Ray said. “And that is very rare in a newsroom filled with type A personalities. He was sweet and funny and always a professional.”

In our 1991 interview, Evans said TV news has been a “fun business” for him. “And I’d be bored silly doing anything else. Except perhaps being an airline pilot.”

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