Dave Ward biography
A generation of Houston TV viewers grew up with Dave Ward.
As the powerful, yet calming voice behind the anchor desk, Ward delivered the news with integrity and authenticity for 50 years on abc13 KTRK.
Ward began every newscast with “Good evening, friends.” Talking to friends is how Ward thought about his nightly interaction with his viewers. His viewers felt the same way about him.
However, to gain the audience’s trust, Ward strove to deliver a balanced newscast by covering both sides of an issue and above all getting the facts correct.
That is why he has been called “The Dean of Houston News.”
David Henry Ward was born in Dallas on May 6, 1939, but never actually lived there. His mother wanted her baby to be born in a major hospital. Huntsville, TX (70 miles north of Houston) is where the Ward family actually made their home.
Dave’s father, Henry Ward, was a Baptist preacher who had taken jobs around East Texas. The elder Ward settled in Huntsville to take a job as the pastor of the city’s First Baptist Church.
While at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, TX, the young Ward was bitten by the radio bug. Dave became intrigued while watching his fraternity brother spin records at KGKB radio.
At the time, no one knew how far his love of broadcasting would take him.
After learning how to run the board, Dave was hired as the drive time disc jockey. It was at this point David Ward became Dave Ward at the station manager’s insistence.
“He said, ‘David sounded too biblical,’ so I became Dave. And was with KGKB there until 1960,” Ward recalled.
When Dave started spinning records for KGKB, it was a an easy listening station, but when new owner Harry O’Connor bought the station, the format went rock n’ roll over night.
As the 1960s began, Dave moved to Waco’s WACO radio. This time, Dave put away the records and picked up a reporter’s notebook as he took an opening in the station’s news department.
Dave became the station’s program director a year later.
In 1962, Houston radio came calling.
Dave packed his family up and moved to the Bayou City to work at 1230 KNUZ-AM and KQUE where he was the night news reporter for the Top 40 station in between the hits of the day.
“We did three and a half minute newscasts straight up on the hour, and a little headline thing at the half hour, and that was it,” Dave remembered.
Dave was eventually promoted to news director.
For his work at the Houston AM station and his previous jobs, Dave was later inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.
“I was nominated for it by two former disc jockeys at KNUZ,” Dave said. “Paul Berlin, who was the longest running disc jockey on the air here ever, and Arch Yancy.”
In 1966, Dave left radio for, at the time, pioneering world of television news. He was hired at channel 13 KTRK as the station’s only on-the-street news reporter and photographer.
“I had learned how to shoot news film,” Dave remembered. “And, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I mean it was new. I’ve been in radio for eight years. It was, exciting. It was a challenge to me to see if I could develop into a television news reporter. And, worked out pretty good for me.”
Boy did it.
The ABC affiliate was owned by a group of investors that included the family of Jess H. Jones and Judge Roy Hofheinz.
Now you can’t really tell as much today, but the original channel 13 studio looked like a mini-Astrodome. Over the years, the domed studio has been covered up by station additions.
One of the station’s owners had big dreams for an even larger domed building in Houston.
“When they built that studio, [Judge Hofheinz] had the dream then of building a dome stadium so they could play baseball indoors,” Dave said. “And everybody thought it was crazy, but it all turned out he was exactly right. The same company that built our television studio there on Bissonnet Street, same architectural firm, later went and built the Astrodome.”
The station would later be sold to Capital Cities Communications out of Albany, New York and eventually the Disney ABC Television Group.
In the 60s, Dave shot with a Bell & Howell 16mm hand wound camera.
“It weighed about eight or nine pounds,” Dave described. “It was heavy. But it took good films, 16 millimeter, black and white.”
Believe it or not, Dave was hired at 13 in the Le Que pool hall in what is now the Rice Village. That’s where his future bosses wanted to hold his job interview!
“The news director, Ray Conaway, was an old B-24 bomber pilot in World War II,” Dave said. “And he met Willard Walbridge who was the station manager somewhere in the military. He was the news director and the anchor.”
Back then, KTRK only did 15 minutes of news at 6pm and 15 minutes at 10pm.
Dave actually took at $50 pay cut to move from radio to TV. It made his dad question his career move.
“‘David, you’ve had a good eight-year, nine-year career in radio…are you sure you wanna do this TV thing?’ And I said, ‘Dad, trust me. I feel good about this.'”
Only a year later, Dave was put in the anchor seat at 7am for the thirty-minute newscast.
“Which I didn’t even know we had, to tell you the truth,” Dave recalled with a laugh.
Dave said the previous anchor, who started the early newscast, would read about five minutes worth of wire copy. For the rest of the time, he would called bait camps all around Galveston Bay.
“And after I started it, within a week I got calls from all these bait camps, ‘Where’s Bob Stevenson? Why ain’t he calling us doing their fishing. Tell them people we’ve got live bait here,'” Dave recalled with amusement. “I’d tell them, ‘Bob is no longer on that program. There’s been a change. And the bait camps were a little upset.”
While Dave was anchoring the 7am news and the “Dialing for Dollars” show at 9am (which eventually became “Good Morning Houston”), other legendary channel 13 children’s shows took to the airwaves.
Cadet Don was on the air at 6am before Dave’s newscast. Kitirik showed up in the afternoon at 3pm.
In January of 1968, Dave became the main anchor of Eyewitness News at 6 and 10 with Dan Ammerman.
“After I was on the 6 and 10 o’clock newscast, I’d get with [the station’s night photographer] and we’d run police call, fires, wrecks, you know, whatever ’til 2:00, 3:00 in the morning,” Dave said. “That was in after hours. No longer having to be there at 5:00 AM, you know.”
When it comes to Dave Ward, viewers think of the anchorman of the number one television station. Back then, however, that wasn’t the case as the other Houston station’s signed on long before KTRK.
“Our newscasts were poor, number three, in like a three-station market,” Ward said. “But over the years, and it took quite some time — two or three or four years — for people to gain that trust to turn to us. They were so ingrained in the other two stations, that were very dominant in Houston at the time. It took quite a while for the, audience to develop, and it finally did. And we had this number one rating there at Channel 13 since, about the mid ’70s.”
Ammerman left the station and Dave became a solo anchor. He went on to anchor with Jan Carson, Shara Fryer and Gina Gaston.
Dave’s tireless work continued with his extensive coverage of national political conventions and with a commanding presence reporting on the space program from the Florida launch site for Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and all shuttle flights. From fires, explosions, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes throughout Texas and the southern states, Dave has covered it all.
During his career, he has interviewed people from all walks of life, from Presidents to drug dealers. His interviews with five US Presidents and US Vice President Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller have achieved much acclaim.
He has traveled to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, and Colombia to report on numerous stories with a Houston connection. Dave accompanied a Houston delegation to the Paris Peace Talks once and spent a week in Germany examining mass transit solutions that could potentially benefit Houston.
Trying to encapsulate Dave’s community service is almost impossible. He has lent his expertise at the microphone, with his commanding voice and his stately presence, to serve as Master of Ceremonies for charitable and civic events too numerous to mention. Dave’s prestige, talent, and professionalism continue to add immeasurably to the overall success of any fundraising event. There are few nonprofit organizations in the city that have not benefited from Dave’s generosity of spirit and his willingness to serve his community.
Dave is past president of Houston Easter Seals Society and has hosted several Easter Seals telethons. He is a past member of the Public Affairs Advisory Board of the Houston Business Council, Public Information Committee of the American Cancer Society, the Board of Directors of the Leukemia Society and the Press Club of Houston. He is a Lifetime Member of Crime Stoppers and the 100 Club of Houston, Endowed Lifetime Member of the Partnership for Baylor College of Medicine, and a Lifetime Member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo – he broadcast the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Parade for 49 years. Dave proudly serves on the board of the Houston Police Foundation and on the Advisory Board of Houston Children’s Charity.
Dave has done so much for many organizations but his work with Crime Stoppers of Houston has been and continues to be historic and unparalleled. At the time of the program’s inception in 1981, it was Dave who was instrumental in establishing Crime Stoppers in Houston and throughout the world. His creation of crime reenactments has become the model of excellence for similar programs across the country and throughout the world.
He became Crime Stoppers’ first on-air reporter and his unwavering passion and commitment to mitigate crimes in our city remains steadfast to this day. Opening in late 2016, it is only fitting and appropriate that the first Crime Stoppers headquarters in the nation will be named The Dave Ward Building: Crime Stoppers of Houston. A mission-driven monument to crime prevention, this building will also be a highly efficient, secure hub for centralized operations, staff, volunteers, victims, law enforcement and the media. Also honoring Dave Ward will be detailed collections, archives and a retrospective gallery land marking his award winning career and contributions.
In 1973, Dave received the City of Houston Public Service Award for his work on the Managua earthquake and fondly remembers that Mayor Louis Welch presented him with the plaque.
In 2002, Dave received the prestigious Leon Goldstein Award for Outstanding Service in Fighting Crime from Houston Crime Stoppers. In 2007, he proudly accepted a regional Emmy for Art/Entertainment Special Programs for his interviews with his dear friend, singer-songwriter, Steve Tyrell.
In 2011, the Lone Star Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences inducted Dave into their Silver Circle for his years of contributions to the Television Broadcast Community.
In 2016, Dave was honored by the Mexican American Bar Association of Texas and also inducted into the esteemed Texas Radio Hall of Fame. Also, in 2017, Dave will be inducted into the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association Hall of Fame. In 2018, Dave was selected to serve as the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo “Parade Grand Marshall”.
Dave has earned an esteemed reputation as one of Houston’s most dedicated public servants and his viewers fondly refer to “Dave” as the “Face of Channel 13” and the “Voice of Houston.”
He has distinguished himself not only as the longest running television anchor in the City of Houston, but he holds that same distinction worldwide; no other news anchor has been on the same newscast program, on the same station in a major market, as long as Dave Ward. Dave now holds the Certificate from Guinness World Records for “The longest career as a television news broadcaster is 49 years and 218 days, achieved by Dave Ward (USA), who began working on 9 November 1966 and continues anchoring at KTRK-TV, in Houston, Texas, USA, as verified on 2 June 2016.” “OFFICIALLY AMAZING!”