Singer, sailor, radio announcer, TV producer & director, CBS Vice-President, Right hand man to Mayor Frank Rizzo, Restaurateur.
A native of Hartford, CT., Jack Downey sang in dance bands through high school and college until he joined the naval amphibious force and spent four years in World War II, two and a half of it overseas. Jack was injured and hospitalized during the invasion of Italy. The man in the next bed to him was Jimmy Downs, a talented musician and ventriloquist. During their recuperation, the two put on shows for other patients. An admiral heard their act and developed a special services division just for them…touring the two and a 13 member band throughout Africa, Italy and France to perform for the troops.
After the service, Jack continued to sing with various dance bands and on a radio program in Hartford, where he later became an announcer and eventually General Manager. When the station was bought by CBS and offered a TV grant, they sent Jack to Yale to learn TV production. From there he moved to New York City as a TV director, to KMOX-TV as Executive Producer, to KDKA-TV as Program Director and finally to WCAU-TV in Philadelphia as Program Director and finally to WCAU Radio where he was Vice-President and General Manager for 11 years.
(Left to right) Ed Harvey, Jimmy Hoffa and John Downey
WCAU Radio Studio
Jack then went to work for Frank Rizzo as his Deputy Managing Director. At the same time, he purchased a building on the corner of Front and South Streets, where he planned on living on the top two floors and renting the first and second. Having no success renting the empty floors, Jack in desperation, opened a restaurant (Downey's Drinking House and Dining Saloon) which, after serious early growing pains, has enjoyed some success over the past 20 years.
During this 20 year span, Jack has produced and packaged liquor cakes which are sold throughout the USA and soups which have just recently been distributed in the eastern states.
Jack is an officer and board member of the South Street-Head House District, Restaurant Row Association, Queens Village Neighbors Association and is past president of the Greater Philadelphia Restaurant and Purveyor Association.
John Downey was the fifth president of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia served during the years of 1966 and 1967.
The above material (starting with material under the dashes) was supplied by Jack Downey himself.
Herb Clarke, a former president of Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia and a member of our Board of Directors for decades and a Channel 10 weathercaster for 4 decades e-mailed:
Jack came to WCAU-TV shortly before I arrived in November 1958. He came with his wife and two daughters from a radio job in Pittsburgh and I believe it was at the time CBS had bought the stations from the Evening & Sunday Bulletin.
He served as Program Director; Jack Schneider was VP and General Manager (1958 - 1962). Jack Dolph replaced him as P.D. when Downey was promoted to G.M. of WCAU (1962 - 1974)
Coincidentally, Jack joined with me and Dr. Robert Trout, M.D. (an early open heart surgeon who practiced at Presby-U of P Medical Center) in the purchase of a single-engine Cessna at Wings Field. Jack gave up flying after his wife was killed in a crash at Lewistown, PA and because he began to suffer from vertigo (a real no-no for a pilot).
John Downey passed away in August of 2008. On Friday, Novmber 19, 2010, Jack Downey was posthumously inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Portrait photo originally donated by Jack Downey
WCAU Radio photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Ed Harvey
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