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John Cameron Swayze

radio and television journalist

John Cameron Swayze

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 Huntley.

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 ticking."

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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The Robinson Library >> Linguistics, Languages, and Literatures >> Journalism >> United States

This page was last updated on 09/23/2017.