John Cameron Swayze was born in
Wichita, Kansas, on April 4, 1906, and grew up in
Atchison, Kansas. His distinctive voice helped
him win high school oratory contests. He left the
University of Kansas in 1929 to try his luck as
an actor on Broadway, but moved to Kansas City
after the stock market crash forced the closure
of many theaters.
In 1930, Swayze became a
reporter for The Kansas City Journal-Post.
Radio station KMBC had a microphone in the
newspaper's newsroom to air news bulletins, and
one of Swayze's early jobs was to announce those
bulletins. He made his first television
appearance in 1933, when he appeared on an early
experimental program broadcast from the Kansas
City Power and Light Building.
In 1940, Swayze became a
full-time newscaster for KMBC, with a weekly
salary of $30. Hoping for a job in network radio,
he left for Hollywood in 1944, but had to settle
for a desk job at NBC's Western News Division. In
1947, the network moved him to New York City.
While there, Swayze proposed a radio quiz program
called Who Said That?, in which a panel
tried to identify the person behind a famous
quote. The program subsequently became quite
popular among NBC listeners.
In 1948, NBC sent Swayze to
moderate its television coverage of the
Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
Initially reluctant to switch to television,
Swayze proved himself quite capable, and the
following year he was made host of the Camel
News Caravan, a 15-minute news broadcast on
the NBC television network. The show replaced the
straight newsreel format common to the day and
became the prototype of modern newscasts, with
live pick-ups of news events, interviews and
roundups by commentators. It also made Swayze one
of television's first stars. Swayze retired from
the show in 1956, and was replaced by Chet
Now a well-known television
personality, Swayze went on to become the
television spokesman for Timex watches. For
twenty years Swayze stood by while a Timex watch
was subjected to a wide range of outrageous
situations, and then, while holding up a
still-working watch, delivered the trademark line
"It takes a licking and keeps on
In addition to his news
broadcasts and Timex commercials, Swayze also
appeared on several other programs, including the
children's show Watch the World. He also
made occasional cameo appearances in films.
John Cameron Swayze died in
Sarasota, Florida, on August 15, 1995.
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