Jack Taylor, WGN Anchor, Dead at 94
Beloved WGN news anchor Jack Taylor has died. Taylor, who had a seven-decade career in journalism and appeared on TV screens in Chicago on WGN for more than 20 years, died of heart failure over the weekend, the news station announced. He was 94.
Taylor's radio career began accidentally while he was in the Army at age 17. Taylor, the son of a dirt farmer, grew up in extreme poverty in the dust bowl era and joined the Army at 17. A military superior noticed his baritone voice, and his daughter, Sherry Taylor Aleksich, shared that the officer "walked by and said, 'Hey kid, hey kid, who are you?' And [Taylor] said 'I'm a private in the Jeep pool'. And [the officer] said, 'We need an announcer in Fort Knox,' and that's how he got started."
If you are a long-time viewer of WGN News, you will remember the name Jack Taylor.— WGN Morning News (@WGNMorningNews) February 6, 2023
Taylor died this weekend from heart failure at the age of 94.
More on Taylor's Legacy: https://t.co/VFMpXPc3Lr pic.twitter.com/rzaJcuQ2Zf
What followed was a journalistic career that spanned seven decades and began with a stint on Armed Forces Radio, per the Daily Herald. After his service, Taylor went on to work in small radio markets like South Dakota and Iowa before he and his wife, Virginia, moved to Chicago in the 1950s. It was there that Taylor began co-hosting a talk show on WGN 720-AM radio, also working at WBBM and WCFL. After falling on hard times and picking up work selling Fuller Brushes on commission, Taylor heard about auditions for a TV news anchor in Chicago and immediately won over WGN-TV Vice President Bob Irving.
"'How'd you like to come work for us? I love you!'" Taylor recalled Irving saying while speaking to the Daily Herald in 2012. According to Taylor, he replied, "'You can't talk to me like that; I'm a married man.'" Taylor recounted to the outlet, "And that was the beginning of 26 beautiful years. When someone's willing to give you a chance, it means the world to you."
Taylor became the face of WGN News during the 1970s alongside Len O'Connor, Harry Volkman, and Jack Brickhouse, the trio helping the independent station to rival network affiliates CBS and NBC. Taylor reflected on WGN's success in an interview with Chicago media reporter Robert Feder in 2020, sharing, "In the early '70s, [WGN station boss] Sheldon Cooper called me to congratulate me. He said: 'Our 10 o'clock news has beaten Channel 2 and Channel 5 in the ratings."
After retiring from television news, Taylor returned to radio broadcasting, this time with his wife, the couple broadcasting together in a daily show on WJOY in Crown Point, Indiana. A wake for Taylor will be held Friday, Feb. 10 at the Kristan Funeral Home in Mundelein, with his funeral set for the following day at Community Protestant Church at 11 a.m.