- Interviewed at Press Club of Dallas Living Legends 2011 event
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. 190 Garland, Texas 75043.
Greetings my friends:
Yesterday, as in most cities around the US, Dallas celebrated July 4th with parades and fireworks displays, each one more spectacular than its neighbors. I participated in a few celebrations and once again thanked the Universe for the freedoms we enjoy here in the US – which not everyone everywhere does.
This mood was somewhat tarnished when I opened emails, some of which had the most intolerant statements- pointing fingers at each others’ parties and politics and religions. “Well it’s an election year, to be expected, each side slams the other”, I sighed, then shook my head and said no, darn it; “it’s the 4th of July- it’s about celebrating freedom in a country that purports to be united, compassionate, a democracy and tolerant of differences, some of those differences ones of color, race, creed and political and other ideology. In fact, some of those same differences that caused our families, even some of us, to immigrate and get away from intolerant nations and situations, sometimes fleeing outright persecution”.
I thought about the individuals who inspire us to go beyond pettiness and embrace civility. Albert Einstein, for one, who said, “our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty;” My friend Ann who talks about civility…. through her entrepreneurship and the Grace of Tea; and Anousheh Ansari, another.
Now a Dallas based entrepreneur, and the “first female private space explorer”, Anousheh, who originally hails from Iran, recently joined us for a McCuistion TV taping. On the program, she stated what I felt this way:
“Earth is our space station traveling through this Universe and the sooner we realize it… we will find a better way to live together peacefully and really enjoy the resources we have on this planet.”
Her story and how she fulfilled her dream is inspiring so I hope you tune in this Sunday, July 8, 2012 and watch on KERA or visit McCuistionTV.com next week as the full episode will be online (click here for more information on the episode).
These examples compelled me to rebut some of those email comments and instead talk about tolerance and freedom of speech and what we are grateful for on July 4th. And I got some comments back. A friend commented with her July 4th experience,
“Yesterday I was watching FOX -5 news while making dinner. They asked several people what the 4th of July meant to them. It was interesting that all said the right to our freedom but they didn’t, and couldn’t, articulate beyond that very well.” She asked as do I, “Is it that we’ve taken freedom so for granted that we can’t say what it means anymore. Do we take for granted the gifts that we have in the country and only look at what we don’t have?”
For awhile I have been thinking of, writing about, mulling over the concepts of intolerance and fear which is often media fed and not just in a political year. My friend reminded me of this and the potential recipe for disaster it may lead to. Her words, not mine,
“Where there is fear there can be no peace, internally individually or externally. It seems to me that disharmony is also being fed by the bias we hear from the many peoples throughout the world. I think that the real question is: ‘how can we, individually, make the world a better place?’ Extremists, radical thinking, bias, intolerance, continue to perpetuate the hidden fear that WE ALL store consciously or unconsciously. Words are powerful and until we begin to speak collectively about the power of peace and how we share similar values for family, community and life we will continue toward a downward trajectory”.
Thank you Anousheh and others for the reminder of what freedom and tolerance and mutual respect mean and restoring my mood and faith in people. And hope you watch the program; you too will be inspired.
All my best:
Scott Burns, syndicated newspaper columnist and author, has covered personal finance and investments for over 30 years. In 1985 he joined the staff of The Dallas Morning News where his column became one of the most widely read features in the paper. Today, he ranks as one of the five most widely read personal finance writers in the country, (according to The Dallas Morning News). He joined us on McCuistion, talking about his then new book, The Coming Generational Storm (MIT Press, 2004), co-authored with Boston University economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff. Listed as one of the 25 best books of 2004 by Barron’s, named one of the top 10 business books of 2004 by Forbes, the book was endorsed by five Nobel laureates.
In retrospect, Burns and Kolikoff predicted the future. The Coming Generational Storm warns of a worldwide generational financial crunch and advises us on how to protect ourselves from the fallout. He and Kotlikoff are back with another brilliant: The Clash of Generations, which John Maudlin has outlined so well in his newsletter. John was also a guest on McCuistion, talking about his economic predictions and his latest work: ENDGAME: The End of the Debt SuperCycle & How It Changes Everything; a book well worth reading. His program can be seen by clicking here.
Thanks for joining us for conversations that matter…
Niki Nicastro McCuistion
Executive Producer/ Producer
About 10 years ago when people heard the term venture philanthropy there were puzzled looks. Today, while still a ways to go, it has become considerably more mainstream. George Ellis and Bob Wright join us in this brief interview, defining what venture philanthropy is; “the marrying of the head and heart; a bridge between care based organizations”, a term they both prefer to the “label” of nonprofit organization.
George, Bob and David Hale Smith, collaborated in producing The Little Green Book of Venture Philanthropy; the subtitle defines what this fairly new philanthropic business model is… How Business Hats and Volunteer Hearts Can Learn to Play Well with Each Other and Make the World a Better Place.
Venture Philanthropy ‘borrows from the practice of venture capitalists”. It is based on the premise that the best investments require more than money. To be successful, talent, expertise and strategic thinking need to be part of the mix. Venture philanthropists expect results and accountability from the organizations they work with. They are active donor investors who want change to happen fairly quickly. Taking a more hands on role in how their money is spent and managed, they expect a more business like operation.
Eleven years ago, Bob joined us on a McCuistion TV program and shared valuable insights into this fairly new philanthropic model. His fellow panelists read like a who’s who of Philanthropy- Bill Drayton, then Chair and CEO of Ashoka-founded in 1980 and still the model for the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, Jim Jenkins, former Executive Director of| Entrepreneurs for North Texas and Todd Wagner co-founder with Mark Cuban, of Broadcast.com. The philanthropic business models they discuss have become an integral part of the nonprofit culture, thanks in part to these social innovators. It is a landscape you’ll want to learn more about.
Below is the McCuistion TV episode on venture philanthropy with Bill Drayton from several years ago.
Thanks again for joining me in conversations that matter…
Niki Nicastro McCuistion
Evan: now editor of the new, non-profit, non-partisan, online newspaper, the Texas Tribune, discussed his perspective on the future of print journalism with a sold out crowd of Press Club members and guests. Launched two and a half years ago, the Texas Tribune is supported by grants from the Houston Endowment and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation among other donors.
Evan Smith spent nearly 18 years at Texas Monthly as the magazine’s president and editor in chief. Under his leadership the publication won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence (the industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize) twice and was nominated 16 times. He also hosted a weekly interview program, Texas Monthly Talks, aired on PBS stations across Texas since 2003.
He states: “What we mean to do and are doing on an ongoing basis is right there in our stated mission, to promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, politics, government, and other matters of statewide concern, “
Smith said. “We’ll do this through our original reporting, published on this site (www.TexasTribune.org) and in the pages of and on the websites of our syndication partners, and our various on-the-record events, which will always be open to the public.”