TV Newsman Jack Latham, 72, Dies; Was Top L.A. Anchorman

Times Staff Writer

Jack Latham, whose authoritative manner and sonorous tones made him Los Angeles' most popular television anchorman three decades ago, has died in a Palm Springs hospital, it was learned Friday.

He was 72 and died Thursday in Desert Hospital, said his son-in-law, Norman Burdt. Latham had suffered a series of heart attacks and undergone bypass surgery.

The ruggedly handsome Latham was a dominant force in the formative years of local television, moving into the new medium from radio station KFI where he had been the Richfield Reporter on the evening newscasts sponsored by the oil company.

He had come to Los Angeles from Seattle where he had been, among other things, an all-night disc jockey.

TV was in its infancy and anchormen in that distant era were seen 15 minutes a day, five days a week. They were multi-talented, unaccompanied reporters who offered news, weather and sports in a simplistic, straight-forward manner. And if there was film to be shown they provided the voice-over for that, too.

Latham started on KNBH, Channel 4 (now KNBC) in the early 1950s when George Putnam at Channel 11 was the dominant TV force in town. Within a year Latham had supplanted him in the ratings.

Viewers accepted his credibility, said Ed Hwaaker, Latham's producer at that time.

He remained atop the ratings until KNXT, Channel 2, went to 30-minute and then one-hour news programs and KNBH was unable to keep its lead.

Latham had argued unsuccessfully for expansion to the one-hour format. "We did not have to lose the lead at 6 p.m." he said bitterly in a 1979 interview with The Times.

By 1967, the year he left Channel 4, he and management were at odds over Latham's ownership of radio and television stations in Palm Springs and Hawaii.

Hwaaker said there was an additional complication. "Management thought Jack had begun to look old."

He was made business editor rather than anchorman and he soon resigned.

He moved to Channel 11 and broadcast a noon news report for two years but left there when the station reduced its staff.

Latham then traveled and managed his stations, acquiring an additional one in Indio. He sold his Palm Springs TV station (Channel 42) but continued as manager and anchorman, broadcasting nightly from the desert community. Most recently he had been the first general manager of KDOC Channel 56 in Orange County.

Survivors include his wife, Alika, a son, daughter, stepson and sister.

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