Longtime news anchor Bill Close dies at 91 - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Longtime news anchor Bill Close dies at 91

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PHOENIX -

KSAZ-TV FOX 10, as it's now known, began broadcasting in 1953 as KOOL-TV, and one of its most watched television news anchors ever was Bill Close.

With his shock of white hair, signature bolo tie and no-nonsense delivery, he was the most trusted man on television -- the Walter Cronkite of Phoenix and Close took that responsibility seriously.  To be mentioned in the same sentence with him is an honor.

In 1964, after a distinguished 18 year career at KOY radio in Phoenix, KOOL made Close an offer he couldn't refuse.  He would anchor the main newscasts and manage the newsroom.

"A true pure journalist..it had to be right," said Dave Munsey, FOX 10 meteorologist.

Close was never one to mince words.  In his last interview with me in 2009, he talked about how he ended up in Phoenix.

"I wanted to get out of the snow," he said.

With Close at the helm, KOOL soared to the top of the ratings.  A position the station held for four decades.

He was respected by all the major political players from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan, whom Close interviewed in 1984.

"Number one I voted for him..number two, I thought he was an excellent president and number three, he was a real gentleman."

Close overcame tremendous hardships early in life.  At 15, he lost parts of both legs when a trolley slammed into his bicycle. He rarely talked about it and never wanted sympathy.

"I had to prove myself not to you, but to me..every time..all the time."

He went on to attend Stanford, married his wife Joy and raised three children. And as his broadcasting career flourished, he saw dramatic changes in television.

In 1976, Close shared the anchor desk for the first time with Mary Jo West -- the first female news anchor in Phoenix.

"I didn't really get excited about sitting next to a charming young lady as a co-anchor," said Close.  "She was the hardest working individual male or female with whom I ever worked."

The defining moment in Close's career came on May 28, 1982 when a deranged gunman burst into the Channel 10 studios and held Close and camera man Louie Villa hostage for five hours.

The valley watched it all unfold live as Close calmly negotiated with the gunman -- ultimately reading his rambling statement.  It was the strangest copy Bill Close ever delivered.

Moments later, the gunman surrendered.

Close's cool composure and professionalism was something to behold that night.  It was vintage Bill Close and he was the best. And to many of us here at FOX 10 and around Arizona, he always will be.

Close died Sunday afternoon. Funeral plans are not yet available.

Bill Close was a member of the Rocky Mountain Emmy organization's Silver Circle and a member of the Arizona Broadcaster's Hall of Fame.

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