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Stan Chambers, the local TV broadcast legend whose reporting career at KTLA spanned more than six decades, died this morning, the station announced. He was 91.
Chambers died at his Holmby Hills home surrounded by family, according to his daughter, Mary.
Chambers joined KTLA, then a fledgling station, on Dec. 1, 1947, and continued to report until his retirement on his 87th birthday on Aug. 11, 2010.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Chambers family,” KTLA president and GM Don Corsini said in a statement. “Stan was a brilliant journalist and one of the best in the business.”
Chambers covered more than 22,000 stories during his 63 years with the station, KTLA noted. A building on the station’s lot on Sunset Boulevard is named after him.
With TV still a relatively new medium, he was on the scene in April 1949 for KTLA’s landmark 27-hour live coverage of the ill-fated attempt to rescue 3-year-old Kathy Fiscus, who had fallen into an abandoned water well in San Marino, Calif. There were very few working TV sets at the time.
“We had no idea of the impact [the broadcast] was going to make,” Chambers was quoted as saying in the KTLA announcement of his death. “It really brought the city together. Los Angeles was a big city, but on this one weekend, it became a small town. Neighbors would visit neighbors they didn’t know very well. They’d sit in front of the set. They’d have dinner there. They’d go to sleep on the floor, really right up to the end.
“For the first time, they experienced the long form of television, that they were a part of this whole broadcast from the moment they started looking.”
The genial Chambers also covered floods, fires, the 1965 Watts riots, the June 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel and the Rodney King beating by police following a high-speed chase in 1991.
KTLA and Chambers broke the sensational King story after a witness, George Holliday, videotaped the beating in Simi Valley, Calif., and dropped off his tape at the station. Chambers’ report created quite the stir, the newsman recalled in a 2008 interview with the Archive of American Television.
Chambers had served in the U.S. Navy and was working on the USC campus magazine and taking radio broadcasting classes when he heard about KTLA, the first commercial television station in L.A. and the seventh TV station overall in the U.S. “I didn’t even know that television was on the air,” he said in 2010. In fact, KTLA only had been broadcasting since January 1947.
He suggested that KTLA do a story about the magazine, then was offered a job working behind the scenes as the station was expanding its broadcast schedule from two to six nights a week. Chambers served as a stagehand, salesman and production assistant before graduating to reporter.
Chambers received several local Emmy Awards and Golden Mike Awards, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2008, he published a memoir, KTLA’s News at 10: 60 Years With Stan Chambers.
Survivors include his wife Gigi, 11 children, 38 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
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