Harry Porterfield Longtime WLS-TV personality dead at 95
Written by JAMM on October 23, 2023
CHICAGO (WLS) — Longtime WLS-TV personality Harry Porterfield died Monday morning after a short illness, his family said. He was 95.
He died of natural causes, surrounding by his family in Munster, the family statement said.
There will be a public memorial in Chicago. Those details and private funeral arrangements are pending.
He leaves behind a wife of 55 years, four children, one grandchild and one great grandchild.
Harry Porterfield Jr. was born in Saginaw, Michigan on August 29, 1928, his family said.
He was in radio and television there, first.
“I became a stage hand for the television side. I ran cameras and set up the stage for Romper Room. I’d come in and do the 10 o’clock news; it was 11 o’clock in Michigan then,” Porterfield previously said.
Porterfield started his Chicago broadcast career at WBBM in 1964 where he spent 21 years before moving to WLS-TV in 1985. He worked at WLS-TV for 24 years before returning to WBBM in 2009. He retired in 2015 at age 87.
Among his many journalistic achievements in the Midwest region includes his decades-long segment called “Someone You Should Know,” his family said. Porterfield told thousands of community member’s unique stories which cemented his remarkable impact on Chicagoland and beyond.
At one point at WBBM, he was anchoring the Saturday weekend news with a small staff and not much news to cover.
“And the producer said, well, we ought to do something through the week that we could hold and save the time we really needed them, particularly on Saturdays. We had no news… nothing… nothing to put in the show. So let’s call it ‘Some You Should Know’ and I thought it was the silliest name I’d ever heard,” Porterfield said.
Porterfield said he left WBBM, but the impression was that he’d been forced out.
As the best known African American face then anchoring a Chicago newscast, his departure from the station sparked a boycott against Channel 2.
It was an outcry heard across the country.
“The first feeling I have is that I’m humbled because I was the focus of this thing, even though I wasn’t there. I was a kind of phantom in all of this. That boycott, and there was a boycott there at Channel 2, there was this picket line in front of that station for 10 months. Can you believe it? Ten months… to bring on changes. I wasn’t there and to think that I was a catalyst for that is really kind of overwhelming,” Porterfield said. “But the impact it had was to create a lot of opportunities around the country and I guess that the one thing I’m really, I guess I’m proud of that because it did cause a lot of people to take another look at this business and say there is some very deserving, very talented folks out there who can fill these jobs.”
Porterfield also held a degree in chemistry from Eastern Michigan University and a law degree from DePaul.
He received the first Outstanding Journalist Award ever presented by the Chicago Association of Black Journalists and countless other awards, including eleven Emmys and the prestigious DuPont Columbia Journalism Award.
It was hard to get Porterfield to talk about those awards, but he would talk about music.
He started playing the violin when he was 8 years old. A proud member of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Porterfield played in everything from small groups to symphony orchestras. He played in the “Do It Yourself Messiah” every year.
“So music has always been with me. I remember one of the conductors back home said one time, he said, you know being involved with music is the most civilizing experience you can have. I thought about it and I thought, ‘You’re right. It does so much. It’s therapeutic. It’s civilizing. It does a lot of things. It makes you whole,” he said.
SOURCE: WLS-ABC 7 CHICAGO