Larry McCormick, a longtime KTLA News anchor and public affairs host who was one of the first African American TV news anchormen in Los Angeles, died Friday afternoon. He was 71.
McCormick died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a long illness that prevented him from co-anchoring KTLA’s “News @ Ten: Weekend Edition” for most of the last year. The cause of death was not released.KTLA news director Jeff Wald said McCormick left the air in February and returned in April.
“He did two nights and then he couldn’t come back,” Wald told The Times on Friday. “He kept telling me he was going to be back in two weeks,” Wald said. “I think that kept him going because he was so much a fabric of this television station.”
A stalwart at KTLA-TV Channel 5 since 1971, when he started as a weathercaster, McCormick filled a variety of on-air roles over the years, including delivering sports news and health and fitness reports.
He also was the host of a public affairs show called “Pacesetters” for many years. And in recent years, he was co-host of “Making It: Minority Success Stories,” a Sunday morning public affairs series for which he shared an Emmy in 2003.
Wald called McCormick, who began co-anchoring “News @ Ten: Weekend Edition” in 1973, “the epitome of professionalism and class.”
“In 33 years of knowing this man we never had a cross word, never had an argument about anything. The first thing he’d ask is about my father; he’ll be 88 next month. Larry cared about everybody else and was just a consummate professional.”
Marta Waller, who co-anchored “News @ Ten: Weekend Edition” with McCormick, said he “brought real continuity and professionalism to television news.”
“There was a comfort level with Larry; viewers felt like they knew him,” she told The Times. “There was just nothing about Larry that you didn’t like. Everybody trusted him.”
Waller, who had worked with McCormick since the late 1980s said, “He was, without a doubt, one of the most compassionate and generous and kind people I’ve ever known. And it wasn’t just news. He gave so much to his community, and he was just tireless. He put his heart into everything he did, and he didn’t compromise his journalistic ethics for anything.
“I’m just stunned that he’s gone.”
Born in Kansas City, Mo., on Feb. 3, 1933, McCormick studied theater at what is now the University of Missouri in Kansas City but changed his major to broadcasting. He launched his radio career as a disc jockey and community relations director at station KPRS in Kansas City in 1957.
“I was kind of an introverted kid from a poor family and I think being a drama student in high school really brought out my personality,” McCormick told the Los Angeles Sentinel in 2001.
He moved to L.A. in 1958 and worked as a disc jockey, news reporter and talk show host at radio stations KGFJ, KDAY, KFWB, KLAC and KMPC. He also served as community affairs director at some of those stations.
Joining KCOP-TV in 1969, he became one of the first African Americans to anchor a news broadcast in Los Angeles. A year later, he became a weatherman for KABC-TV, and then it was on to KTLA.
In 1994, he received the prestigious Governor’s Award, the highest honor presented annually by the L.A. branch of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He also received a number of Golden Mike Awards from the Radio and Television News Assn. of Southern California, for which he was a past president.
Over the years, McCormick had a chance to tap his earlier interest in acting -- usually playing a TV news reporter -- in more than 60 films and TV shows, including “Throw Momma From the Train,” “The Naked Gun 2 1/2 ,” “The Jeffersons,” “The Love Boat, “The Rockford Files” and “Beverly Hills 90210.”
A strong presence in the community, McCormick either organized or was emcee for dozens of programs in the Los Angeles area. He also volunteered for numerous nonprofit organizations, particularly in the African American community. He was on the board of directors of the Los Angeles Urban League, the Greater Los Angeles Press Club and the Challengers Boys & Girls Clubs.
He was a perennial host for the United Negro College Fund and Muscular Dystrophy Assn. telethons. He also served more than 20 years as the emcee for the Los Angeles Urban League’s annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Awards Dinner. And he was “quiz master” for 12 years for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Academic Decathlon and two years for the National Academic Decathlon.
McCormick was an avid tennis player.
In 2002, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in honor of his 43 years in broadcasting.
“Larry McCormick is in your homes more than your mother-in-law,” Hal Fishman, anchor and managing editor of KTLA’s weeknight “News @ 10,” joked at the time.
Fishman, who was out of town Friday and unavailable for comment, described his good friend and colleague of more than three decades at the star unveiling as a man of integrity who is objective in his work. “He doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator, but to the highest,” he said.
McCormick is survived by his wife, Anita; daughter Kitty; sons Alvin and Mitch; and two grandsons.
Funeral arrangements were pending.