CASEY KEY, Florida — Jack Perkins wore many hats over the course of his journalistic career — reporter, war correspondent, anchorman, host, photographer and author.
But he also was a kid from Wooster — and he never forgot that.
Perkins, who retired to Florida but still managed to keep working, died Monday. He was 85.
Born in Cleveland, he recalled growing up in Wooster, tales of which appeared in the semi-fictional “God’s Bridge,” a 2017 book with a protagonist very similar to Perkins, who grew up on Overlook Drive and recalled trips downtown with his father and brother to the bank and to the barbershop.
In a 2017 interview with The Daily Record, Perkins said he no longer was getting back to Wooster on any kind of a regular basis, though he had joined his Wooster High School Class of 1951 for its 50th reunion and would from time to time entertain old friends from the area at his Florida home.
Perkins is a member of the Wooster High School Fine Arts Hall of Fame and had been a member of the school’s speech and debate team. He met his wife, Mary Jo, when the two — he from Wooster, she from Orrville — competed against each other at a speech tournament at McKinley High School in Canton. Married 59 years, the couple had a daughter and two sons.
Perkins was a graduate of Case Western Reserve University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science before beginning his career at WGAR radio, then at WEWS (Channel 5) in Cleveland.
From there, Perkins went to NBC to work on “The NBC Nightly News” and occasionally hosted “Today.” He covered everything from the Olympics to the Vietnam War to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and was at one point named “America’s Most Literate Correspondent” by the Associated Press.
The Emmy-nominated journalist left network news but re-surfaced in 1990 on the Arts & Entertainment network, most notably as the host of “Biography” a job he held from 1994-99.
After years of living all over the world before settling in Los Angeles, Perkins and his wife traded urban life for a home off the coast of Maine, a place he discovered earlier when he was sent to interview a then-up-and-coming author named Stephen King. While living on the island, Perkins took up photography, which led to the publication of “Marveling” and “Island Prayers.”
Perkins also penned two books of poetry, “Nature of God” and “HomeWords” and a memoir, “Finding Moosewood: Finding God,” followed by “God’s Bridge.”
After moving to the warmer climate of Florida, Perkins hosted the Emmy Award-winning “Gulf Coast” weekly magazine feature from 2004-12.