Bill Burns

Easily the most recognizable face for over 40 years in downtown Pittsburgh was Bill Burns.  Burns got in on the ground floor of the television era with Channel 2 KDKA with studios in the Gateway Center right by the point. { It was originally WDTV from the DuPont Television Network which Westinghouse bought in 1954}.  He anchored both the noon and 11pm  news every weekday.

Burns also did investigative reporting and frequently went on special assignments around the city.  Bill Burns believed that digging out the news was just as important as televising it. 

He came from just outside Philadelphia and had a steel leg brace.  Burns was a disabled veteran from World War II.  Tall, handsome, and immaculately dressed,  BB could have won the Mayoralty  race in Pittsburgh without opposition.  He had a distinctive sign off every day for both telecasts.   Graciously mentioning other people first who changed over the years,  he would say either:

————– and —————, and I will be back tomorrow at 12, that’s the News this Noon,

for———–and—————, Bill Burns wishing you Good Night, Good Luck, and Good News tomorrow.

Bill Burns lived right in downtown Pittsburgh only steps away from Gateway Center.  He always had time to talk to people on the streets of the city.  As with Tom Brookshier,  Burns was very affable talking with just about anyone and this kept him aware of what was on the public’s mind.  He had a dignified yet informal way of reporting and was not above making comments on his own.  Such as to paraphrase “How do you like that when two young punks can rob someone. ”  He made his opposition to the Vietnam War known as well.  “300 people killed last week and they say it’s not war”.

Pursuing this further, there was a show that KDKA did with KYW called Pennsylvania New Conference in the 60s and 70s.  Burns was even more bluntly against the war by his questions to Senators and Congressmen.  Being disabled,  Bill Burns did not want others facing the same fate for what he believed was no good purpose.

Burns never broadcasted on KDKA radio.  It would have been a waste of his commanding appearance.   Television took all all of his time anyway.  He refused many offers to go to stations in  New York, Los Angeles, or Washington.  He wanted to be the big fish in a smaller pond.  With two million people in the Pittsburgh area,  that is big enough.  Then too, Pittsburgh has many corporate headquarters which make it a center of activity.

KDKA made history when Burns had his daughter Patti as co-anchor on the news show.  Channel 2 called it the Daddy and Patti Show.  Patti Burns endeared herself to Pittsburghers as much as her old man.  You will  find details of their lives on Wikipedia.  Bill Burns died in 1997, some eight years after his retirement.  Patti Burns died in 2001 very untimely from cancer.  Both had a great impact in Pittsburgh and are sorely missed.

What people forgot about Bill Burns was the two years he spent providing the color for the Pittsburgh Steeler away games on CBS-KDKA.  Burns and Joe Tucker, the play-by-play Voice of the Steelers, were great friends and the chemistry between them was perfect.  Bill Burns displayed a unique knowledge of the game and kept it moving through his comments.  On the Pre and Post Game shows, he questioned coaches and players effortlessly.  CBS abandoned the specific  announcer format after 1967 and the two no longer did games.

Bill Burns was one a the great newscasters in the entire country.   What Walter Cronkite was to the country, Burns was to Pittsburgh.  I will always remember, Good Night, Good Luck, and Good News tomorrow.  

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