2019-08-20 19:19:39 UTC
Former NBC News reporter, A&E 'Biography' host Jack Perkins dies at 85
BY JOE CONCHA - 08/20/19 11:28 AM EDT
Former NBC News reporter and A&E "Biography" host Jack Perkins died Monday at age 85.
Perkins served as a reporter, commentator and anchor for "NBC Nightly News" and "Today" during his 25 years with the network. His live reporting included coverage of President Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
Early in his career at NBC, Perkins worked under anchor David Brinkley, who helped Perkins shape his understated on-air style of allowing the story to be the primary focus, instead of the reporter.
“What Brinkley taught me was a master class in how TV news should be written,” Perkins said in 2012 interview. “Say less, mean more. If a story is dramatic, you don’t have to tell it dramatically. Be simple. Direct. None of this, ‘The nation suffered a great tragedy’ nonsense.”
After retiring from NBC in 1986, Perkins went on to host the popular A&E series "Biography."
Perkins is survived by his son, Eric, who followed his father into journalism and works as sports director at KARE-TV, an NBC affiliate in Minneapolis.
Perkins's wife, Mary Jo, died earlier this year.
Jack Perkins, ‘Biography’ host and Casey Key resident, dies at 85
By Thomas Becnel
Posted Aug 19, 2019 at 4:35 PM
Updated at 11:25 AM
Jack Perkins, the NBC newsman and “Biography” host who retired to Florida and began “A Gulf Coast Journal,” died Monday on Casey Key.
He was 85 years old.
Television viewers across the country remember Perkins from his work on “NBC Nightly News” and “The Today Show,” along with his hosting duties for the “Biography” program on the A&E Network. In Sarasota, he hosted the “Gulf Coast” weekly magazine feature on WEDU-TV from 2004 to 2012.
“It was quite a show for a local PBS station to produce,” said Dick Lobo, the former president of WEDU. “It became a fun project for him. The show was popular and it won a lot of Emmy Awards.”
Bruce Rodgers, executive director of the Hermitage Artist Retreat, remembers Perkins visiting Manasota Key for a pair of programs.
“Jack was a consummate professional,” Rodgers said. “Everything was smooth and easy, and he was natural and real. You got that sense of sincerity and authenticity with him. And he was also a poet who wrote books of poetry. That came across with the way he saw the Hermitage. He was able to express that.”
Paul Grove, the president and CEO of WEDU, said working with Perkins was one of the highlights of his broadcasting career. He admired his writing and delivery.
“He had this rich, resonant bass — a signature voice,” Grove said. “And he was a one-take genius. No second takes — he didn’t need ’em. Just an extraordinary mind.”
Perkins’ survivors include his wife, Mary Jo, a daughter, Julie Wong, of Delray Beach, a son, Mark, of Eugene, Oregon, and a son, Eric, a sports broadcaster in Minneapolis. He was an active member of the Venice Presbyterian Church.
“We all remember him — Jack was wonderful,” said Chris O’Brien, executive director of the church. “He had a sense of humor that was out of this world. He made the ordinary extraordinary.”
On his Facebook page, Perkin’s friends and colleagues praised his books and television segments.
In a 2013 book, “Finding Moosewood, Finding God,” Perkins wrote about exploring his spirituality while living in a Bar Island cabin near Acadia National Park in Maine. His other books include “Island Prayers: Photographs and Poems of Praise.”
Perkins was born in Cleveland and graduated from Case Western Reserve University. At NBC, he became a reporter, war correspondent and anchorman. He covered the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles. His television features were often compared to those of Charles Kuralt at CBS.
“Jack was a better feature reporter than a news reporter,” Lobo said. “He was more of poet, more of a romantic.”
After years as a newsman, Perkins became famous as a bald-headed and white-bearded host of the “Biography” program on A&E. Viewers enjoyed his deep voice and long introductions to TV segments. Programs such as “Saturday Night Live” parodied his familiar style.
Grove said “A Gulf Coast Journal,” sponsored by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, won 18 local Emmy Awards.
Perkins enjoyed questioning authority and tweaking colleagues. Once in awhile, just for the fun of it, he would throw producers a curve ball of a question.
“He loved to challenge you,” Grove said. “He loved to make sure you were on your toes.”
Lobo remembers having to talk Perkins into doing “A Gulf Coast Journal.” At first, he only wanted to host the show and record voice-overs. Then he became involved in every aspect of production.
“Jack was kind of a curmudgeon, kind of a crusty guy,” Lobo says. “He was an old-time newsman. He was adamant about grammar. He demanded good writing. He demanded high production values in everything he did.”