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Ruth Ashton Taylor, trailblazing TV journalist, dies at 101

Ruth Ashton Taylor sits in front of a microphone
Ruth Ashton Taylor, pictured here in Hollywood in 1963, has died at 101. She was the first female newscaster on television in Los Angeles.
(CBS Photo Archive / CBS via Getty Images)
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Ruth Ashton Taylor, the first female television newscaster in Los Angeles and one of the first in the country, died Thursday in Northern California, her family announced. She was 101.

A Los Angeles-area native, Taylor trailblazed a 50-year career in journalism, during which she interviewed the likes of Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, worked with industry icons including Edward R. Murrow and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“She was certainly that woman out there doing something that none of us saw other women doing at the time,” Susan Conklin, one of Taylor’s daughters, said in an interview with The Times.

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Taylor was born in Long Beach in 1922 and graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School and Scripps College in Claremont before heading east to attend Columbia University for graduate school.

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Almost immediately after graduating from Columbia, Taylor was hired to join a CBS documentary team led by Murrow, Conklin said.

Despite being in her early 20s at the time, Taylor proved to be a fearless reporter.

“She was trying to do a piece on the peacetime uses of nuclear energy and she went and she found Dr. Einstein,” Conklin said.

Taylor had been attempting to contact Einstein for some time before she traveled unannounced to Princeton University, where he was working.

Taylor happened upon Einstein as he was walking down a hill.

She introduced herself.

“He said, ‘Ah! The broadcasting lady,’ ” Taylor recalled in a set of interviews done for the Washington Press Club Foundation.

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Taylor returned to Los Angeles in 1951 and was hired as the West Coast’s first female television reporter at KNXT, now KCBS.

She left journalism for a short time in the late 1950s before returning to KNXT in 1962, where she spent the rest of her career before retiring in 1989.

Taylor covered an array of topics during her career and hosted a variety of segments and shows.

During one fire, Taylor recalled, a Los Angeles County fire chief said, “This is the first time I’ve ever been interviewed on a fire line by a woman.”

“But not the last,” Taylor replied.

After officially retiring from KCBS, Taylor continued to work on retainer for the broadcaster into the 1990s.

Among the honors she received in acknowledgment of her decades-long career was a Lifetime Achievement Emmy.

Despite Taylor’s demanding work schedule, Conklin said her mother was always there for her family.

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“Work was really important to her,” Conklin said. “She worked hard, but I never felt like she forgot she had kids. We still came first for her.”

“She just showed up as a mom ... and then showed up as a grandmother and showed up as a great-grandmother,” Conklin added.

For the record:

2:15 p.m. Jan. 22, 2024A previous version of this story said Taylor was survived by daughters Susan, Sadie and Laurel Conklin. Taylor had only two daughters: Susan and Laurel.

Taylor is survived by her daughters Susan and Laurel Conklin, her stepson John Taylor, a grandson and granddaughter-in-law and a great-grandson.

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