Monday, March 3, 2008

Jack and "The War"

(Originally posted September 30, 2007)

The airing of Ken Burns' The War on PBS this month stirred memories of my friend Jack Shelley.

For just about anyone around today who lived a decade or more in Iowa during the 1900s, Jack Shelley is a familiar name. Born in 1912 near Boone, Iowa, Jack is as close as you get to being a "living legend.”

A journalist of the first order, Jack's career with WHO radio and television in Des Moines was punctuated with historic broadcasts of World War Two. From live broadcasts at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 to covering the Japanese surrender ceremonies aboard the USS Missouri in 1945, Jack reported from a variety of war venues. After the war, he served as News Director at WHO-AM-TV for some 25 years.

Fortunately for a new generation of aspiring broadcast journalists, Jack moved from the newsroom to the classroom in 1965, accepting an appointment to the faculty at Iowa State University in Ames. By 1969, when I was News Director at KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa, I had become acquainted with Jack through the Iowa Broadcasters Association. That was a factor in my return to Ames in 1970 to pursue a Masters degree in Journalism. Jack Shelley was my major professor.

In 1982, Jack retired from his second career as a college professor -- but not before touching the lives and positively influencing hundreds if not thousands of young men and women. What a tremendous career this gentleman has had.

In the 1990s, he was a staunch opponent of WOI-TV being sold by the university and was rather outspoken on the topic. While the sale occurred anyway, it didn't diminish Jack's capacity for being active and involved in the community and across campus. While his pace has slowed a bit -- at 95 years of age, he's entitled!

To capture a bit of his remarkable careers as a broadcaster and educator, I heartily recommend Robert Underhill's excellent book, Jack Shelley and the News (McMillen Publishing, Ames, IA 2002). Last I heard, Jack was still giving weekly news reports at Rotary meetings in Ames, but his good friend and long-time colleague Bill Kunerth tells me that Jack has recently had a few setbacks with his health. We'll hope it's only temporary!

And then, there's Bill Kunerth, but that's a story for another day.

Fair winds and following seas to a good friend and mentor, Jack Shelley.

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