SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KCBS) – Legendary KCBS and CBS-5 Anchor Dave McElhatton has passed away at his home in Southern California. He was 81.

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McElhatton was a KCBS announcer and anchor for 25 years. He left the KCBS newsroom in 1976 for an anchoring position at CBS-5. He was the number one anchor in the community until his retirement in 2000.

The man who would one day be the voice of San Francisco was a Bay Area boy through and through. McElhatton grew up in Oakland during the Depression, and went to Fremont High School.

He watched from his father’s shoulders when Amelia Earhart landed on an Oakland airstrip, sparking one of his two great passions: flying. The other passion was broadcasting.

He used his G.I. Bill money to finance his education at San Francisco State University.  Just two weeks after earning his broadcasting degree in 1951, he landed his first job at KCBS Radio.

It wasn’t long before McElhatton shot to stardom.

Newsman Al Hart, another legendary KCBS anchor, was McElhatton’s producer. “He was so funny,” Hart once recalled. “So quick-witted, Dave could do so many things and that’s why that period of radio back there in the ’50s and ’60s was so much fun, because we could do whatever we wanted to do.”

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A critic at the time questioned McElhatton’s move to television, calling it “either a flash of genius or an incredible blunder.”

Some of the new technology did prove challenging for McElhatton, but he met it with a smile every time.

“Mac was very good humored about it, he knew he looked funny compared to the typical anchor man. He wasn’t a young guy, he wasn’t handsome, he wasn’t perky and energetic, he was McElhatton,” recalled Harry Fuller, who produced McElhatton’s first television newscast. Fuller, later as News Director and General Manager, was there for some of the biggest moments of McElhatton’s career. “McElhatton was unflappable. I watched him work through the ’89 earthquake, I watched him through period after period of election coverage when we’d go on and on for hours and hours without a script.”

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“He was just rock-steady and I was nervous and green and insecure and he was so generous,” added Wendy Tokuda, who shared anchor duties with McElhatton for more than a decade. “What you saw really was him, he really was that nice. In fact, he was nicer. And he really was warm, and he really was that genuine, honest person that you saw.”

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From the big, serious news stories to the more offbeat, he covered it all before retiring in 2000. He and his wife moved to Palm Desert, where he enjoyed the sunshine, a little golf, and visits from grandchildren and the occasional former anchor.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:

The Dave McElhatton Scholarship in Broadcast Journalism
Check Payable to: San Francisco State University Corporation
Attention: Carma Zisman
University Development
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
Make a secure donation online using this link. To complete the online form:
In the “About Your Gift” section, select “other” from the “I would like to support:” drop down menu and then type in “D. McElhatton Fund” in the text box.

Questions?  Please feel free to contact Carma Zisman with any questions or to learn about other ways to support this fund and the SFSU broadcasting program: call 415-405-3805 or email

Comments (23)
  1. Clarence says:

    To those of us who grew up with Dave, he was the Bay Area’s Walter Cronkite … the most “trusted man” in Bay Area news. He did it all … both radio and television. His shoes can never be filled by another … but hopefully others at KCBS and KPIX will try their best to follow in his foot steps … as KCBS is still the best … the leading news source (from Clarence R Fischer)

    1. Sally Giovinco says:

      Couldn’t say it better than Clarence just did. RIP.

  2. Rick says:

    I am also a native of the Bay Area and know that Dave McElhatton, ‘Mac’, was a fixture in the Bay Area news service. He was a comfort to watch and hear. He looked like my Father and had the greatest sense of humor as well. He will be sorely missed. The news service has not been the same since he retired and now the world will be just a bit sadder without his presence. My heart goes out to his dear family. Rest well Mac.

  3. HMG says:

    First, Clarence took the words right out of my mouth. Second, I grew up listening to Dave on KCBS. My first memories of radio as a child are of listening to Dave and “Friendly Clyde” (Homer Welch) doing the morning show. They did a daily history spoof entitled “It Happened This Day I Think”. Dave, you will always be remembered as the consumate San Francisco news professional and as a true mensch. Rest in peace, Dave. (Hillel M. Ginton, Bnei Brak, Israel)

  4. BILL WELCH says:


  5. ER says:

    When I lived on the Oregon coast in the early 1980s, the local cable TV carried KPIX so that’s when I became acquainted with Mac and the rest of the team. I continued to watch when I moved to the Bay Area. I was so sad for him when his first wife died of cancer. RIP Dave, you were the best and will be missed.

  6. Lance says:

    In the early 1960s, I remember waking-up to McEllhatton in the Morning with Dave’s sidekick “Friendly Clyde.” It was a pleasantly amusing radio show for a much simpler time. My father and I remember seeing him when we were servicing safety equipment at the Embarcadero Center in the 1970s. Dave greeted us first! He was as nice in person as he was on the air.

  7. Reed Miller says:

    It seems nobody remembers Mac the way I do – as host of “Music ‘Til Dawn” for many years. Even there he was friendly and witty.

    1. Marilyn LeeStowe says:

      My dad, who went to Albany High, also went to SF State and he and Dave were in the theatre group. I did a little piece in The Devil and Daniel Webster with them. Our families would get together at their home (this would be first wife, Jeannie) while he was working Midnight ‘Til Dawn many times. When they moved to San Francisco, they lived just over the hill on Golden Gate Ave. I didn’t know Dave was anything but a good friend of my folks..and that he was on tv (eventually) for KPIX and actually had a bit part in a movie. His kids were just old enough for me to babysit (or, maybe I was just old enough to babysit) even though Colleen was still in a crib. I hadtried to keep up with him, but was not able to after Jeannie passed. Perhaps my move to Washington state had something to do with that. Anyway, I just found out that Terry has also passed. This really isn’t the way I’d like to keep in touch. Last time was when I was notified about his retiring. Sigh! Maybe he will meet up with my dad.

  8. Michael says:

    We knew Dave for many years. My father worked with and produced the McElhatton show during the early years at KCBS. Prior to going all news there was a morning show from the studios at the Sheraton Palace hotel. Dave and my dad always had a good time. There was humor, on the air antics, and music. Dave’s side-kick “Friendly Clyde” (Homer Welch) had a song for the show entitled “McElhatton in the Morning”. It was crazy-classic old school radio. Our families would vacation together on occasions and Dave was always ready with a quick line or joke. Dave also knew how to make an entrance. I recall on time we were at a “remote” broadcast at the Cow Palace. Dave landed in a rather large helicopter in the parking lot and ran in to get on the air. We knew Dave had arrived. Later when the transition was made to “All News 74”, Dave was right there. And for the years that passed he made a lasting impression on KCBS and KPIX. Dave will always be remembered.

    1. Nick says:

      Thanks, Michael, for that great piece. In this day of Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and all the other news “with a viewpoint”, Dave will always be remembered as a great person with a respect for his job, but a quick wit. I’ve missed him much since his retirement, but he had earned some rest.

  9. Ryan Leong says:

    He was an inspiration to all broadcast journalists and he will be truly mised

  10. Ann Raineri says:

    I grew up listening and watching Dave, he will be truly missed. It was a treat this morning to hear him and Al Hart via the sound bites. He may not have been flashy but he was true, honest and steady. Just like Al Hart, they are the type of folks we need now more than ever in this “It is all about me society”. Hopefully we will all meet up in the big “Radio Listening Audience in Heaven” one of these days.

  11. Bill Moen says:

    When Dave did a “Return to Morning Radio” feature on his TV newscast years ago he filmed at each morning-mans’ control room.
    When he interviewed me at our dumpy KABL shack at the bay bridge toll plaza he looked around and said; “Well, RADIO hasn’t changed a bit.” He was a nice man as was Pete Wilson. I’ll miss them both.

  12. Greg Sandin says:

    To the voice of Bay Area news…it’s time to keep the folks upstairs informed with all the news. We will miss you and your wonderful sense of humor. It is so good to hear from another Bay Area radio legend Bill Moen. Where are the great ones when you need them!

  13. Owen says:

    I worked on “McElhatton In The Morning” from 1965-1967, as KCBS’ first commute traffic reporter. Dave made the workplace a delight and, as others have said, his personality didn’t change off the air. A wonderful human being has passed.

  14. Jeff Richmond says:

    What struck me and what probably was the basis for his success was that he was the same guy on or off the air. I was also a bit skeptical when he moved to TV but KPIX stuck with him during those early days when it seemed Dave was not quite as comfortable as he quickly became with the TV anchor business. He really is a Bay Area broadcast legend.

    1. Nick says:

      Its funny – when Lois Malconian (probably spelled it wrong) – one of Dave’s old KCBS coanchors went over, she wasn’t TV strong either and they bounced her relatively quickly. I’t also great to hear that he was the same on/off the air – a sentiment shared by many here. Thanks for the post.

  15. mardele says:

    Thank you for sharing history with us (like the time you reported from ice cold Norway at the Olympics

  16. Kirk says:

    I remember — years ago — listening to Dave and Friendly Clyde inthe mornings, before morning chat lost a great figure to the news room. I still can hear Friendly Clyde singing . . . “If I had my life to live over, I’d live over the corner saloon.” One could do worse than following the notion behind that — being a loyal member of your local community.

  17. Melvyn says:

    Some of my great-nephew’s earliest words were an attempt to say “Dave McElhatton and Wendy Tokuda” which he watched regularly. Their names came out something like Dave Mack-a-ha-ha and Wendy Tofufu. He even made himself a tie to wear to look like Dave, worn over his PJs.

    RIP Dave

  18. SarahSue says:

    I remember Dave on the Morning show with “Friendly Clyde”–he was hilarious –quick witted and fun.

    I also recall his first wife being in an All women’s Air Race Derby or some such event which she may have won–and which he reported about at the time. Was very interesting and a challenging event.

    –SarahSue San Francisco

    I always missed the morning show–the two had a good rapport and was a great way to start the day.

  19. Frank Deanrdo says:

    I was born and raised in San Francisco my entire life and Dave was the man who I listened to in my parents car. I saw him on CBS-5 from 1976 until he retired in 2000. He was down to earth and not like Ted Baxter or Ron Burgundy. He will be missed and my thoughts and prayers to his family & friends.

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