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Bill Kurtis

Television journalist and producer. Born William Horton Kuretich in 1940, Pensacola, Florida.

Kurtis was born to a Marine Corps general and his wife in 1940.  Bill was raised in Independence, Kansas.  At 16 Bill was working as an announcer at a commercial radio station in Independence of which he eventually became a part owner.  He earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas in 1962 and a law degree from Washburn University in 1966.

He worked as a news anchor while in law school and after passing the bar examination decided not to accept a job offer from a law firm and instead to pursue journalism.  On June 6, 1966, a tornado struck Topeka killing 16 and injuring hundreds.  He was in the thick of the coverage and his warning as the tornado approached Topeka, “For God’s sake take cover.” is the best-remembered statement about the disaster.

Kurtis' professional but stirring handling of the emergency brought him to the attention of a Chicago television station and he became a reporter and then an anchorman with WBBM, a local television station.  Kurtis moved to New York City to anchor the CBS Morning News and then returned to Chicago after three years to produce television documentaries for “The New Explorers.” He also returned to WBBM as an anchorman where he served until 1991. He was the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas' Distinguished Kansan of the Year in 1983.

He now often appears on the A & E network as the host and narrator of “Cold Case File” and “American Justice.”  Kurtis has received many awards for his television work, including over 20 Emmys, the Illinois Broadcasting Association 1998 Hall of Fame Award and the Kansas Association of Broadcasters 2003 Hall of Fame Award.

Kurtis has been recently featured in humorous AT & T commercials that have been very well-received.  In addition to his work in journalism Kurtis has been active in efforts to revitalize some small Kansas communities where he has committed significant amounts of his own money.  Kurtis had written three books, including “The Death Penalty On Trial: Crisis in American Justice.”

Entry: Kurtis, Bill

Author: G. Joseph Pierron

Author information: Judge Pierron serves on the Kansas Court of Appeals and has an interest in Kansas history.

Date Created: March 2012

Date Modified: August 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.