John Hambrick Passes Away

The anchor who started a family brand name in Cleveland TV news has passed away.

John Hambrick, who came to Cleveland in 1967 and helped steer Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 to local TV news dominance in the early 1970’s, passed away Tuesday in a Texas hospital after a battle with cancer. (Photo by NewsNet5.com)

“TV 5 Eyewitness News” went from the local news cellar to the penthouse with Hambrick and co-anchor Dave Patterson, with household names in local TV news by their sides…sports director Gib Shanley and weather anchor Don Webster, with commentary provided by icon Dorothy Fuldheim.

And about that brand – two other Hambricks ended up doing TV news in Cleveland.

John’s brother Judd was a fixture at WKYC in the early 1980s, after starting at the station then known as WJKW/8, and his other brother Mike had a very brief run at WEWS itself. Judd has retired from TV, and the station says Mike now works for SiriusXM’s “The Howard Stern Show”.

But John Hambrick started it all.

Several of his former “Eyewitness News” colleagues speak fondly of his time at 3001 Euclid, in an article on NewsNet5.com by the station’s Tom Livingston. (The link also leads to video of an excellent story by WEWS’ Leon Bibb, with plenty of clips of Hambrick.)

Webster, who later moved into management at WEWS, calls Hambrick a “true gentleman and a pro” who guided the news team without grabbing the spotlight.

Co-anchor Dave Patterson says Hambrick had a “dynamic approach” that came naturally, and that the “Eyewitness News” team was “greater than the sum of the individual talent”.

The NewsNet5 article also notes that Hambrick was very much one of those local TV news anchors who relished international field reporting, including covering major stories in the Middle East, Japan, and Puerto Rico, along with coverage of national political conventions.

And John Hambrick apparently missed Cleveland, after leaving for Los Angeles in 1975, and future work in other big markets like Miami, San Francisco and New York City.

From the NewsNet5 piece:

“I think I made a mistake in leaving Cleveland,” he told Ted Henry in 1992. “I look back on Cleveland, and my time in Cleveland as the one genuine success in my career.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer TV writer Mark Dawidziak covered Hambrick’s death as well, and Hambrick repeated those sentiments about Cleveland in an E-mail to the paper, for an article by Dawidziak earlier this year.

“The years at WEWS were extremely important to my career,” Hambrick said. “In fact, they jump-started it. While I appreciate the subsequent years in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Miami and a short stint in Beaumont, Texas, I often wonder how things would have turned out had I stayed in Cleveland.”

Hambrick returned to his native Texas after his TV news days were done, and was working on a Civil War movie project in recent years, after having already done a PBS documentary.

The versatile former local news anchor produced and wrote a country music album while he was in Cleveland, “Windmill in a Jet Filled Sky”…after having recorded the song “Mechanical Man” with his brothers, Judd and Mike…

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5 Responses to John Hambrick Passes Away

  1. Al Kollar says:

    A great guy and he will be sorely missed

  2. Andrew Boggs says:

    John was a pro on and off camera – highly creative in media endevors with a great Texas-sized sense of humor. He also tutored me in broadcast journalism as he had others. I first got to know John on an in-person basis soon after he came to WEWS TV 5 thanks to photojournalist friend Harry Dorsey. I was allowed to be the ‘fly on the wall’ as modern television journalism was being created on the local level. John Hambrick made Cleveland television journalism his own as he had in other markets and remains an icon in many of us who know him as friend. Its hard to say good-bye to a great friend – John Hambrick!

  3. Ann V. says:

    Was he the inspiration for the John Darling character in Funky Winkerbean?

  4. Tim Kubat says:

    People in the Cleveland area may not be aware that for many, many years, Judd has been a successful creator of word puzzles. His “Word Scrimmage” puzzle (pretty much a Scrabble clone) has appeared in many newspapers around the U.S. — but never in The Plain Dealer as I can recall.

    Here is more on Judd’s word game: http://www.universaluclick.com/puzzles/wordscrimmage

  5. Mark says:

    An article in the South Florida Sun Sentinel from August 4, 1993 states that John was considering a return to Cleveland at the time he was leaving WCIX in Miami, but nothing came about from discussions. I wonder which station. Wasn’t Judd at Channel 3 at the time?

    Sun Sentinel article: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1993-08-04/news/9301270719_1_wcix-station-channel-6-s

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