Alex Burton, longtime radio and television newsman, died Thursday, September 13th. Alex was well known for his wit, insightful comments, warmth and general observation of the human condition. He was one of a kind.
Alex worked in radio in Canada; going on to a broadcasting job in Corpus Christi in 1961. He worked at several radio stations in the Rio Grande Valley and a San Antonio television station before joining WBAP-TV as a reporter and cameraman in 1962. He anchored Channel 5 newscasts and in 1966 was eventually replaced by another future network icon, Bob Schieffer.
His diverse career in radio and TV earned him positions as news director of Channel 39 in Dallas; KRLD-AM (1080) as a reporter and commentator and as the weekend anchor for KRLD-TV, now KDFW-TV (Channel 4.) He was also a police and courthouse reporter at KRLD-AM delivering daily commentaries; staying with them till September 1989.
Alex joined WBAP-AM radio in 1990, until the Fort Worth station picked up Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated talk show in October 1992.He then went on to a late-night talk program on KRLD and had a half-hour talk show on KDFI-TV, now KTXA-TV (Channel 21) before retiring in 1994. He continued with announcing and narration for many clients, including PBS.
At an early age he studied drama, and had thought of acting as a career path, however, “I thought about becoming a serious actor, but I discovered I couldn’t remember my lines and everybody else’s lines at the same time,” he said. “It kind of put the cap on being a dramatic actor.” Still his passion for drama stayed with him and made him an excellent raconteur. Alex’ commentaries sometimes included philosophical conversations with a pigeon, “The pigeon could say things that weren’t allowed, and then I could straighten him out.” Sometimes it was his plant- Arthur, a leftover prop he adopted and spoke to on the air.
He also was a community TV producer and served on the board of Community Access TV in Dallas. He was active with the Reading and Radio Resource, services for the blind, and was the voice of 90-second Health watch features on the ABC Satellite Network.
A true renaissance man, he also carved bowls, “I won three prizes at the State Fair,” he said. “Not the best of show or anything like that, but ribbons — first, second and thirds. I won three first prizes as a wood turner with my bowls”; fired ceramics, quilted and published several books.
Alex had a unique and colorful history, from political science at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he was named a Distinguished Alumni in 1981 to being inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2011 The Dallas Press Club honored him as a Living Legend of North Texas Journalism.
I had the honor of interviewing him at that event on the purpose and responsibility of the press. As always he was direct, took no prisoners and made you think. Alex was special, they broke the mold when he was made. He had a significant impact on the people he worked with, the lives he touched, the savoir faire, dignity and depth he brought to each of the positions he held. Alex’s curiosity, sense of integrity, warmth and huge heart were always present, even to the very last. We’ll never forget Alex. Thank you, Alex for your joyful spirit. You’ll be so missed.
– Niki McCuistion
I’ve never met anyone who was so inquisitive, so multi-talented (he wrote a children’s orchestral piece, crafted wooden bowls, did a quilt, wrote several books, fired ceramics, and so much more), and cared so much for his community and his journalism profession. If it was a cause he believed in, he was there to serve. Even in his final hospice days, he was giving orders to check on this or that or to kick someone in the backside to get whatever-it-was further down the road. Alex was a true treasure. A light! A curmudgeon? At times. But only because he cared. We love you, Alex. And we miss you.
– David Dunnigan
Alex is survived by his wife, Mary Jane Tokar and two daughters, Mila Isabella and Sylvia Mansfield.
Memorials may be made to the Press Club of Dallas Scholarship Fund; Mail to: The Press Club of Dallas, @ of E.M. Duvall & Associates, 329 Oaks Trail, No. 109 Garland, Texas 75043.