Broadcast Pioneers member Jack Whitaker
Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Luncheon
September 17, 2003
Broadcast Pioneers member Jack Whitaker was born on Sunday, May 18, 1924 right here in Philadelphia. While most of the world will remember Jack for his television work on CBS and ABC, Philadelphians know Whitaker as the Channel 10 sports guy working with such well known Broadcast Pioneers members John Facenda and Herb Clarke.
Whitaker grew up in a neighborhood called East Germantown and went to Northeast Catholic High School where he was graduated in 1943. Four years later, he was graduated from St. Joseph's College, now St. Joseph's University in Philly.
Whitaker's first broadcasting job was in Pottsville, Pennsylvania at a 250 watt station for $32 a week. From there, he went to Allentown and a 1,000 watt station. Jack Whitaker came to the WCAU stations, owned at that time by the Evening and Sunday Bulletin newspapers, in 1950. There, he did sports reports and play-by-play for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants football teams.
At one time during his Channel 10 career, a new General Manager came to town and cancelled all the sports reports because "only 9% of the people had an interest." Jack was under contract so they turned him into a weatherman and Jack did the early evening reports while Herb Clarke did the 11 pm forecasts. This lasted only a short time and the station put sports back on the schedule and moved Jack back into sports.
Jack started doing CBS-TV sports broadcasts in 1961 while at Channel 10. He joined the network full-time the next year where he was the host of the CBS Sports Spectacular telecasts plus other reporting. Many say that Jack is best known for his horse racing and golf broadcasts. He was one of the announcers of the first Super Bowl telecast on January 15, 1967 in Los Angeles. He also hosted the NFL Today pre-game broadcasts.
In 1966, Jack hosted a prime time game show called "The Face is Familiar" which was a summer replacement show for CBS-TV. The program aired from May 7, 1966 to September 3rd of that year. The program had two teams. Each team had a celebrity and an audience contestant. The concept was to identify scrambled photos of well known people. The winning team could receive up to $700.
During 1982, Jack went over to ABC-TV where he was a reporter for ABC News and ABC Sports. In 1979, Jack won an Emmy for "Outstanding Sports Personality." He also won the Maryland Jockey Club's Hilltop Award for racing coverage. In 1976, he was named "Best Sports Announcer" by Sports Illustrated magazine. During 1997, Whitaker was named into the American Sports Association Hall of Fame. In 1981, Jack was named "Person of the Year" by our organization and inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2001, he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame and in 2005, he was inducted into the Saint Joseph's University Athletic Hall of Fame.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
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