Former Miami anchor John Hambrick, who replaced Ralph Renick, dead at 73

Former South Florida anchor John Hambrick, who arrived in the Miami television market to great fanfare in the mid 1980s to replace legendary newsman Ralph Renick, died Tuesday in hospice care of lung cancer, his son said. He was 73.

The handsome and charismatic Hambrick was the face of WTVJ-Channel 4 (now NBC 6) from 1985 to 1989. A Tom Snyder lookalike with a raspy baritone and dramatic mannerisms, he had come to the station via Los Angeles after a long career at Cleveland’s WEWS, which he helped take from third place to No. 1.

In Miami, Hambrick held the anchor desk at WTVJ for four years with several female co-anchors but the rating didn’t match Renick’s success. Still, Hambrick became a local celebrity. He eventually jumped to WCIX-Channel 6, (now WFOR-CBS 4), where his last co-anchor was Barbara Sloan. She later said before every newscast, Hambrick would say: ”It’s time to bump and jump!”

Hambrick left the station in 1993, a year after covering the area’s biggest story — Hurricane Andrew.

Hambrick’s TV news career started in the early 1960s at WNBC in New York, KABC in Los Angeles, KRON in San Francisco WCPO in Cincinnati and finally KBMT in Beaumont, Texas.

Hambrick received many professional awards over the years, including an Emmy in 1984 for co-anchoring the best newscast in New York.

“John was a legend in this community,” said Liz Roldan, news director at CBS4.

“He set a standard that all of us in the local television industry strive to meet, simply because it makes us all better at what we do. John was larger than life — not surprising because he was a fellow Texan — but also due to his authoritative delivery and his commanding presence.”

Hambrick grew up a poor kid in East Texas and Louisiana. His father worked for Humble Oil in what were known as oil camps, small towns that popped up during the oil boom.

Acting was his true love. Hambrick studied theater in high school and at the University of Texas. He dropped out and headed to Hollywood in the late 1950s to find fame. Among roles he landed were small parts in General Electric Theater and Playhouse 90.

"My dad was a creative person, an artist. He approached anchoring the news and writing copy as a creative process. Whether it was writing scripts, anchoring the news or recording a country album, it was all about creativity with him," his son, Jack, told his father’s old station on Tuesday.

Hambrick began anchoring in Wichita Falls, Texas and didn’t take long to make the big market in Cleveland, where he became a household name.

Hambrick later regretted having left that market.

"I think I made a mistake in leaving Cleveland," he said in an interview with WEWS’ Ted Henry in 1992. "I look back on Cleveland, and my time in Cleveland as the one genuine success in my career."

Hambrick was also a song writer, his album Windmill in a Jet Filled Sky hit record stores and in 1972.

Hambrick retired from TV, but did appear in an episode of NBC’s Friday Night Lights in 2006; he recently co-wrote a screenplay about John Hunt Morgan, the Confederate general who invaded Ohio 150 years.

Hambrick is survived by his wife Barbara, his high school sweetheart, and three children, Jack, Meredith and Mignon.

Graveside services in Texas are planned. Friends may donate to the Lone Oak Cemetery Association, PO Box 494, Lone Oak, Texas, 75453.

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