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Iconic Bay Area News Anchor Passes Away In Rancho Mirage

(KPIX) Former KPIX-TV anchor Dave “Mac” McElhatton died from stroke related illness Monday morning in Rancho Mirage, surrounded by loved ones.

Mac retired from CBS 5’s anchor desk on November 30, 2000 after nearly 50 years on the airwaves at KCBS radio and KPIX television.

Mac was an Oakland native who was in one of the first classes from then San Francisco State College and now San Francisco State University. He used his G.I. Bill money to finance his education. He graduated in 1951 with a B.A. in liberal arts.

Just two weeks after earning degree, he landed his first job at KCBS Radio. It wasn’t long before McElhatton shot to stardom.

Newsman Al Hart, another legendary KCBS anchor, was McElhatton’s producer.

“He was so funny,” Hart once recalled. “So quick-witted, Dave could do so many things and that’s why that period of radio back there in the ’50s and ’60s was so much fun, because we could do whatever we wanted to do.”

He worked for KCBS radio for 25 years in a variety of capacities including the Bay Area’s first telephone talks show, “Viewpoint” and eventually news director and moved the station to its current all news format. He then made the shift to television.

A critic at the time questioned McElhatton’s move to television, calling it “either a flash of genius or an incredible blunder.”

Some of the new technology did prove challenging for McElhatton, but he met it with a smile every time.

“Mac was very good humored about it, he knew he looked funny compared to the typical anchor man. He wasn’t a young guy, he wasn’t handsome, he wasn’t perky and energetic, he was McElhatton,” recalled Harry Fuller, who produced McElhatton’s first television newscast. Fuller, later as News Director and General Manager, was there for some of the biggest moments of McElhatton’s career.

“McElhatton was unflappable. I watched him work through the ’89 earthquake, I watched him through period after period of election coverage when we’d go on and on for hours and hours without a script,” said Fuller.

He co-anchored for 10 years with Wendy Tokuda and also with Kate Kelly, both of whom are still at the station.

“He was just rock-steady and I was nervous and green and insecure and he was so generous,” added Wendy Tokuda, who shared anchor duties with McElhatton for more than a decade. “What you saw really was him, he really was that nice. In fact, he was nicer. And he really was warm, and he really was that genuine, honest person that you saw.”

In 2006 he was an inaugural inductee to the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame.

He moved to Rancho Mirage and was living there and is survived by his third wife of 18 years, Karen, two children, and eight grandchildren. He was 81.

His other awards include:

Associated Press Television Radio Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2003); Governor’s Award from Northern California Emmy (1999); Alumni Hall of Fame from San Francisco State University (1996); and Excellence in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in Northern California (1988).

The station offers condolences to his family.

A public memorial will be held in San Francisco in upcoming weeks.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to:

The Dave McElhatton Scholarship in Broadcast Journalism

Check Payable to: San Francisco State University Corporation

Attention: Carma Zisman

University Development

San Francisco State University

1600 Holloway Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94132

Make a secure donation online using this link. To complete the online form: In the “About Your Gift” section, select “other” from the “I would like to support:” drop down menu and then type in “D. McElhatton Fund” in the text box.

KESQ News Team


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