LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Stan Chambers, who joined KTLA-TV news in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, at the dawn of the television age, and spent six decades as a local TV journalism institution, died on Friday at the age of 91, the station said.
Chambers, who retired from KTLA in 2010 after 63 years as a broadcast journalist in America’s second-largest city, passed away at his home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, surrounded by family members, according to the station.
“Stan Chambers was a newsman in the truest sense. His dedication to producing the best story possible led to innovations that define the newscasts we watch today,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“Stan was a gentleman, a gifted storyteller, and one of those rare L.A. icons whose impact was felt by generations of Angelenos. He will be truly missed,” Garcetti said.
Chambers, then 24, was a U.S. Navy veteran attending the University of Southern California on the G.I. bill and working on the campus magazine when he took a job behind the scenes at KTLA in December of 1947.
“I heard a program one night saying that one of the local television stations had expanded its broadcasting schedule,” Chambers said in 2010, according to KTLA. “I didn’t even know that television was on the air.”
Chambers soon began appearing on camera and in April of 1949 took part in a seminal moment for TV journalism: the 27-hour live coverage of frantic efforts to rescue Kathy Fiscus, a 3-year-old girl who had fallen into an abandoned well. She was ultimately found dead.
That broadcast, at a time when few American households even had a television set, is considered one of the first live broadcasts of a breaking news story.
“It really brought the city together. Los Angeles was a big city, but on this one weekend, it became a small town,” Chambers said of the story, according to KTLA. “Neighbors would visit neighbors they didn’t know very well. They’d sit in front of the set. They’d have dinner there. They’d go to sleep on the floor, really right up to the end.”
Chambers went on to cover the biggest news events in Los Angeles and elsewhere, including the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Watts riots and Rodney King beating, among thousands of other stories.
He is survived by his wife, Gigi, as well as 11 children, 38 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lisa Lambert