Jack Taylor was a fixture on Chicago’s airwaves across 70 years, appearing both on radio and television including long stints as a newscaster on WGN-Ch. 9 and WCIU-Ch. 26.
“He was a consummate newsman who really, really took pride in his work,” said Linda Marshall, who worked alongside Taylor on the Channel 26 program “The Stock Market Observer.”
Taylor, 94, died of heart failure on Feb. 3 in Mequon, Wisconsin, said his daughter, Milwaukee radio news anchor Amy Taylor Diamond.
Born John Alfred Taylor on a small farm in Redfield, South Dakota, Taylor joined the Army as a 17-year-old and was a mechanic in an Army Jeep pool at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. He was interested in broadcasting and soon transferred to Armed Forces Radio, where he was a staff announcer on KNOX-AM.
After that, Taylor studied at the University of Louisville on the GI Bill and worked at radio stations in Louisville and Kansas City before winning an audition for a job in Chicago at WCFL-AM in 1950.
“He very often said that his career really jump-started when his wife, Virginia, convinced him to audition for his first job in Chicago,” said Taylor’s son Jack Jr. “He thought he was way too young, and she said, ‘Let them decide that, not you.’”
Taylor moved to WBBM-AM in 1954 and then began delivering TV commentaries on WBBM-Ch. 2 TV.
In 1958, Taylor joined Channel 9, where he worked as a news anchor, host and announcer. He also hosted an afternoon jazz show and an evening country and western program on WGN-AM radio.
Taylor was Channel 9′s principal news anchor from 1970 until 1979, during a time when the station’s evening newscast — which included Len O’Connor’s commentaries, Jack Brickhouse’s sports and Harry Volkman’s weather reports — was Chicago’s second-most popular newscast.
“I’d call that a very strong lineup,” Taylor told the Tribune’s Rick Kogan in 1989. “We were generally No. 2 in the ratings at 10 p.m. We never seemed able to knock Fahey (Flynn, who anchored WLS-Ch. 7′s top-rated news) out of the box.”
In 1979, Taylor began anchoring Channel 9′s overnight “Nightbeat” newscast while also delivering hourly newscasts between 7 p.m. and midnight each evening on WGN-AM.
In 1984, Taylor left WGN to become the morning host on WLOO-FM, a beautiful-music radio station that encouraged him to “break out of the mold of the anonymous announcer, long the hallmark of the beautiful music format, and inject extra personality and information into morning drive,” the Tribune’s Eric Zorn wrote.
After WLOO underwent a format change in 1988, Taylor and several other announcers left the station. Taylor and two other announcers later sued WLOO’s owners in federal court for age discrimination, and won a settlement in federal court that was upheld by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in 1992.
In 1987, Taylor had begun anchoring WCIU-Ch. 26′s midday “The Stock Market Observer” show, and he remained at Channel 26 after leaving WLOO.
“So many times we have news reports on the air before the other stations in town,” Taylor told the Tribune in 1992. “They have programming they won’t interrupt. We don’t have to worry about that.”
Steve Ruxton, who worked alongside Taylor on “The Stock Market Observer,” recalled that Taylor welcomed him to the show “with a smile and a booming voice.”
“Jack was a great interviewer and immediately put sometimes-nervous interview subjects at ease,” said Ruxton, now a news and business anchor and reporter on WGN-AM. “His interviews were like talking to a neighbor over the back fence. However, he had a quick mind and would ask tough questions if they needed to be asked.”
Another WCIU colleague, Pamela Tilton Linn, said Taylor’s “style, personality and warmth allowed him to elicit easy-flowing, highly informative conversations with some of the financial titans in the Chicago area.”
In the late 1980s and early 1990s he and his wife, Virginia, produced “Financial Fitness,” a business and financial program that aired on WAIT-AM and WRMN-AM, out of their home.
Taylor left WCIU after 16 years in May 2003.
In December 2003, Taylor and his wife teamed up on a new radio talk show airing Saturdays on north suburban WKRS-AM. They hosted that program until she died in 2009. In 2006, he began hosting an investment advice show, “The Market From A to Ziv,” with co-host Peter Ziv, on Saturday mornings on WYLL-AM.
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For a decade, Taylor hosted a two-minute opinion segment on “Midwest Ballroom,” a weekly program airing big band classics on WDCB-FM. Taylor retired from that work in early 2022. Several weeks later, the show signed off the air.
Taylor enjoyed horse racing and was a classic car enthusiast, restoring with his son a 1932 Packard, a 1947 Rolls-Royce Sedanca Deville and a 1954 Ford Thunderbird.
Taylor was inducted into the Chicago Television Academy’s Silver Circle in June 2001.
In addition to his daughter and son, Taylor is survived by another daughter, Sherry Taylor Aleksich; two other sons, Paul Kreske and Jay Kreske; a brother, Jerry; 15 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial service was to take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Community Protestant Church, 418 Prairie Ave., Mundelein.
Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.
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