John Hambrick, a former TV newscaster familiar to viewers in markets from New York to Los Angeles, died of lung cancer in Round Rock, Texas, on Tuesday. He was 73.
Hambrick anchored WEWS in Cleveland from 1967 to 1975, where local ratings rose from third to first during his tenure. He once called his Cleveland stint his greatest success.
He also anchored news programs in San Francisco, Miami, Houston, Cincinnati and Beaumont, Texas, before his career ended in the 1990s.
His younger brothers, Judd and Mike, followed in his footsteps. At one time, all three were anchoring newscasts in major markets.
In Cleveland, Hambrick was succeeded on the WEWS anchor desk by Ted Henry, who called Hambrick “a friend, a colleague and a mentor.”
“He always had a word for me about how I could improve my skills. I learned enormously from him.”
Some notable events covered by Hambrick during his career of 30-plus years included meeting with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican in 1987 and urban riots in Cleveland and Cincinnati. In the latter, he and his cameraman were badly beaten by an angry mob, which also smashed their gear and news car. He also covered multiple presidential nominating conventions.
Hambrick studied at the University of Texas and California State College at Los Angeles, planning to be a teacher. But he was bitten by the acting bug and spent several years in Hollywood where he had supporting roles in various movies and TV shows before eventually landing a broadcast news job.
In every community where he served as a broadcast journalist, Hambrick was involved with a variety of charities and other causes. In Ohio, he chaired the American Cancer Society statewide campaign after his mother was killed by that disease.
Hambrick was honored with many professional awards over the years, including an Emmy in 1984 for co-anchoring the best newscast in New York with Chuck Scarborough.
Scarborough, who still anchors at WNBC, recalled that his former partner was a dedicated broadcast journalist: “He was thorough in his research, relentless in his pursuit of a story and, above all, a master of his craft with an intense, high-energy delivery that commanded attention.”