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Legendary News Anchor Passes Away

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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 czisman@sfsu.edu.

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