Bill Kurtis

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Bill Kurtis
BornWilliam Horton Kuretich
(1940-09-21) September 21, 1940 (age 72)
Pensacola, Florida, U.S.
ResidenceMettawa, Illinois
NationalityAmerican
Alma materUniversity of Kansas (B.S.),
Washburn University School of Law (J.D.)
Occupationtelevision journalist, Spokesperson, and producer
EmployerWBBM-TV,
A&E,
AT&T Mobility
Notable credit(s)WBBM-TV, CBS Morning News, Investigative Reports, American Justice, and Cold Case Files
Home townChicago, Illinois
Political partyDemocrat
Board member ofKurtis Productions
Spouse(s)Helen Kurtis (1963-1977; her death)
Partner(s)Donna La Pietra
(?-present)
ChildrenBy Helen:
1 son (deceased),
1 daughter
RelativesFrank Kurtis (cousin)
FamilyJean Schodorf (sister)
Website
http://kurtis.com/
 
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Bill Kurtis
BornWilliam Horton Kuretich
(1940-09-21) September 21, 1940 (age 72)
Pensacola, Florida, U.S.
ResidenceMettawa, Illinois
NationalityAmerican
Alma materUniversity of Kansas (B.S.),
Washburn University School of Law (J.D.)
Occupationtelevision journalist, Spokesperson, and producer
EmployerWBBM-TV,
A&E,
AT&T Mobility
Notable credit(s)WBBM-TV, CBS Morning News, Investigative Reports, American Justice, and Cold Case Files
Home townChicago, Illinois
Political partyDemocrat
Board member ofKurtis Productions
Spouse(s)Helen Kurtis (1963-1977; her death)
Partner(s)Donna La Pietra
(?-present)
ChildrenBy Helen:
1 son (deceased),
1 daughter
RelativesFrank Kurtis (cousin)
FamilyJean Schodorf (sister)
Website
http://kurtis.com/

Bill Kurtis (born William Horton Kuretich; September 21, 1940) is an American television journalist, producer, narrator, and news anchor. He is also the current host of A&E crime and news documentary shows, including Investigative Reports, American Justice, and Cold Case Files. Previously, he anchored CBS Morning News, and was the longtime anchor at WBBM-TV, the CBS owned-and-operated TV station in Chicago.

Early life[edit source | edit]

Kurtis was born in Pensacola, Florida, to Wilma Mary Horton (1911—2002) and William A. Kuretich (Croatian: Kuretić), of Croatian origin (1914-2001), a U.S. Marine Corps brigadier general and decorated veteran of World War II. His father’s military career included extensive travel for his family. Upon his retirement, the family settled in Independence, Kansas.

At age 16, Kurtis began working as an announcer for KIND-AM, a radio station in Independence. He graduated from Independence High School in 1958, the University of Kansas with a B.S. in Journalism in 1962 and he earned a Juris Doctor degree from Washburn University School of Law in 1966. While in law school he worked part-time at WIBW-TV in Topeka, Kansas. After passing the Kansas Bar examination and accepting a job with a Wichita law firm, Kurtis discussed his options with Harry Colmery and Bob McClure of Colmery and Russell and decided to pursue a career in law.

Career[edit source | edit]

Television career[edit source | edit]

On the evening of June 8, 1966, Kurtis left a Bar review class at Washburn to fill in for a friend at WIBW-TV. He would anchor the 6:00 news. Severe weather was approaching Topeka so Kurtis stayed to update some weather reports. At 7:00 p.m. while on the air, a tornado was sighted by WIBW cameraman Ed Rutherford southwest of the city. Within 15 seconds another sighting came in: “it’s wiped out an apartment complex”. Kurtis's warning to “For God’s sake, take cover” became synonymous with the 1966 Topeka tornado that left 16 dead and injured hundreds more"The Topeka Tornado - June 8, 1966". 31-Aug-2010. Retrieved 25-Jun-2013. . Kurtis and the WIBW broadcast team remained on the air for 24 straight hours to cover the initial tornado and its aftermath. Being the only television station in town and one of the few radio stations not damaged by the tornado, WIBW became a communications hub for emergency operations. The experience changed Kurtis’ career path from law to broadcast news.[citation needed] Within three months, after seeing his work covering the tornado[citation needed], WBBM-TV in Chicago hired Kurtis and set the stage for a 30 year career with CBS.

1966 in Chicago was the beginning of a tumultuous four years and as a reporter and anchor, Kurtis was in the middle of historic events. He covered the neighborhood fires that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and again when Robert Kennedy was shot. The protests against the Vietnam War dominated the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and Kurtis never left the streets.[citation needed] In 1969, Kurtis produced a documentary about Iva Toguri, “Tokyo Rose”, the first interview after her conviction for treason in 1949. His reporting, along with Ron Yates of the Chicago Tribune, helped persuade President Gerald Ford to pardon her in 1977.[citation needed] His law degree came into play when he covered the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial in 1969 which led to a job with CBS News in Los Angeles as correspondent. One of his first assignments was covering the Charles Manson murder trial for 10 months. He also covered the murder trials of Angela Davis, Juan Corona and the Pentagon Papers trial of Daniel Ellsberg.

In 1973 Kurtis returned to Chicago to co-anchor with Walter Jacobson at WBBM-TV. In 1978, his investigative Focus unit broke the Agent Orange story: U.S. veterans who were sprayed by the defoliant in Vietnam. After a dramatic screening of the documentary in Washington D.C. the Veterans Administration issued guidelines to diagnose and compensate those veterans affected by Agent Orange. Kurtis returned to Vietnam in 1980 to cover the Vietnamese side of the story and while there, discovered some 15,000 Vietnamese children conceived and left behind by Americans when the U.S. pulled out in 1975. A story Kurtis wrote for the New York Times Magazine was instrumental in obtaining special status for the children to enter the United States, where they live today.[citation needed]

In 1982, Kurtis joined Diane Sawyer on the CBS Morning News, the network broadcast from New York City. He anchored three CBS Reports: The Plane That Fell From The Sky, The Golden Leaf and the Gift of Life. He returned to WBBM-TV in 1985. In 1986, Kurtis hosted a four part science series on PBS called "The Miracle Planet", as well as a 4-part series in 1987 on the CIA. He formed his own documentary production company Kurtis Productions in 1988, the same year he produced "Return to Chernobyl" for the PBS series Nova, and became the first American television reporter to enter the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster. Kurtis narrated nearly 1,000 documentaries and Kurtis Productions produced nearly 500 for series like The New Explorers on PBS; Investigative Reports, Cold Case Files for the A&E Television Network; and Investigating History for the History Channel. He also hosted American Justice produced by Towers Productions. For CNBC, the company has produced nearly 100 episodes of American Greed.

In 1994, Kurtis obtained a videotape showing Richard Speck, convicted of murdering eight student nurses in Chicago in 1966, having jailhouse sex and using drugs within the maximum security facility known as Stateville, in Joliet, Illinois. He aired a report on WBBM-TV, Chicago, and produced a documentary for A&E Network that shocked the nation. It resulted in the most sweeping changes to the Illinois penal system in its history.[citation needed][dubious ]

Kurtis has received two Peabody Awards, numerous Emmy Awards, awards from the Overseas Press Club, DuPont and has been inducted into the Illinois and Kansas Halls of Fame. In 1998, he was awarded the University of Kansas William Allen White citation.

He is the narrator of a multimedia book by Joe Garner, We Interrupt This Broadcast, with a foreword by Walter Cronkite and epilogue by Brian Williams. Kurtis has authored three books, On Assignment, 1984, Death Penalty on Trial, 2004 and Prairie Table Cookbook, 2008.

Film work[edit source | edit]

Kurtis narrated the 2010 documentary film Carbon Nation by Peter Byck and was the narrator in the 2004 film starring Will Ferrell: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Kurtis will also narrate Anchorman 2, set for release in Dec. 2013. On July 8, 2013, Kurtis was named the Voice of Illinois Tourism.

Tallgrass Beef Company[edit source | edit]

In 2005, Kurtis founded a grass-fed beef company to raise and distribute a healthy beef product without artificial hormones, antibiotics, the use of grain in the feed, and no feedlots. There was no market for grass-fed and grass-finished beef in 2005 but slowly the story of how cattle evolved on grass not corn began to catch the imagination of customers. By 2013, the grass-fed market was growing rapidly and Tallgrass Beef Company is among the leaders in the organic and natural food movement.

Other[edit source | edit]

Kurtis and his sister, Jean Schodorf of Wichita, Kansas, inherited the historic site of the Little House on the Prairie as designated by the State of Kansas. It is now a not-for-profit museum with their grandmother’s one room schoolhouse, a tiny Post Office from Wayside, Kansas, a homesteader’s farm house, and attendant farm buildings. Kurtis’ father was a cousin of Frank Kurtis, in the Indianapolis 500 Hall of Fame.

Recently, Kurtis has appeared on NPR’s news quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, filling in for regular announcer Carl Kasell. Kurtis also contributed a spoken-word introduction to The Dandy Warhols’ 2005 album Odditorium or Warlords of Mars.

Military Service[edit source | edit]

United States Marine Corps Reserve, 101st Rifle Company, Topeka, Kansas 1962-1966. Commissioned Lieutenant (jg), United States Navy Reserve, Chicago, Ill. 1966—1969.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit source | edit]

Kurtis and his longtime partner, Donna La Pietra, are active in many civic and charitable causes. They support numerous non-profit organizations including the Field Museum of Natural History, the Illinois Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, Shedd Aquarium, and the Chicago Zoological Association. They are also among the founders of Millennium Park.

Kurtis’s wife, Helen Scott, died of breast cancer in June 1977. His son, Scott Erik, died at age 38, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Daughter Mary Kristin Kurtis, 48, manages the Red Buffalo Ranch near Sedan, Kansas, home of Tallgrass Beef. A graduate of Boston University, she returned to Kansas after 15 years in San Francisco.

Kurtis’s sister, Jean Schodorf, was a Kansas State Senator for 13 years.

Writing credits[edit source | edit]

Pop culture[edit source | edit]

In the TV series South Park, the boys play a game called "Investigative Reports with Bill Kurtis" where a player must decide to deny a scandal or cover it up. The game first appears in episode 4x05 "Cartman Joins NAMBLA," and can also be seen at the beginning of episode 8x02 "Up The Down Steroid".

References[edit source | edit]

External links[edit source | edit]

Media[edit source | edit]